The evolution, substance and application of environmental impact assessments in South Africa

Parkes, L. (2000-03)

Thesis (MS en S)--Stellenbosch University, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Environmental impact assessments have become increasingly popular over the past few years, by necessity and due to the general increase in environmental awareness. By definition, environmental impact assessment is a process having the ultimate objective of providing decision makers with an indication of the likely consequences of their intended actions. First popularized in the United States of America in the seventies, environmental impact assessments have since evolved worldwide into an effective decision making tool. In South Africa, environmental impact assessments became legally enforceable in 1998 under the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 of 1989) and presently serves as an effective tool in facilitating decision making for sustainable development. A large number of impact assessments are at present being produced for all categories of activities, but questions arise about the effectiveness of these assessments in fulfilling their intended purpose. The present study aims to answer these questions and provide insight into the nature, content and standard of environmental impact assessment in South Africa by examining the foundations and application of the concept. The main method of research was the analysis of various assessments, already submitted to regional authorities, on the basis of content, methods used, depth of analysis, degree of public input and their overall contribution to the better understanding of the problem at hand. During the analysis many inadequacies and merits of these impact assessments were revealed. The quality of reports ranged from good (about one third) to average and poor (about one third). Shortcomings identified related inter alia to data collection; ignorance of socio-economic factors; ignorance of cumulative effects; and analysis and evaluation problems. The benefits that these impact assessments could bring about, were also analysed. It was deduced that there were inherent benefits the most practical being that the good reports assisted the decision making process considerably. Sustainable development was also promoted. It was found that the implementation of the concept still needs more stringent management and monitoring with improved application and incorporation into the present planning approach

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die afgelope paar jaar het omgewingsimpakstudies (OIS) toenemend populêr geword as gevolg van noodsaaklikheid en die algemene toename in omgewingsbewustheid. By definisie is OIS 'n proses met die uiteindelike doel om besluitnemers in te lig oor die waarskynlike gevolge van hul handelinge. OIS het wêreldwyd ontwikkel in 'n effektiewe besluitnemingshulpmiddel sedert dit aanvanklik tydens die sewentiger jare in die Verenigde State van Amerika gepopulariseer is. Omgewingsimpakstudies is wetlik afdwingbaar in Suid Afrika sedert 1998 onder die Wet op Omgewingsbewaring (Wet 73 van 1989). Dit dien as 'n effektiewe middel in die fasilitering van besluitneming oor volhoubare ontwikkeling. 'n Groot aantal impakstudies word tans opgestel vir alle kategorieë van aktiwiteite, maar die effektiwiteit van hierdie studies in die vervulling van hul doelstellings word bevraagteken. Die doel van hierdie studie is om hierdie vraag te beantwoord en insig te verskaf oor die aard, inhoud en standaard van impakstudies in Suid Afrika deur grondslae en toepassing van die konsep te ondersoek. Die hoof metode van navorsing was die ontleding van verskeie studies reeds ingedien by plaaslike owerhede, op grond van inhoud, metodes gebruik, diepte van ontleding, graad van publieke deelname en hul algehele bydrae tot 'n beter begrip van die probleem. Tydens die ontleding is verskeie beperkings en meriete van impakstudies ontbloot. Die kwaliteit van verslae het gewissel van goed (omtrent een derde) tot gemiddeld en swak (omtrent een derde). Tekortkominge geïdentifiseer hou verband met o.a. data insameling, onkunde van sosio-ekonomiese faktore, onkunde van kumulatiewe effekte en ontleding-en evalueringsprobleme. Voordele van impakstudies is ook geanaliseer. Die belangrikste was dat goeie verslae besluitnemingsprosesse aansienlik kan bystaan. Volhoubare ontwikkeling is ook bevorder. Daar is gevind dat die implementering van die konsep steeds strenger bestuur en beheer benodig, met verbeterde integrasie in die beplanningsproses.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/51978