Public participation in environmental impact assessment : a comparative analysis of the United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States'

Decadt, Leen (2001-12)

Thesis (MPA)--Stellenbosch University, 2001.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Despite calls for greater public participation in all aspects of environmental planning, impact assessment and decision making, opportunities for participation in the planning, legal and administrative systems governing these activities, are limited. Public participation has often been reduced to a procedural exercise instead of a substantive process to include the public in environmental decision making. Thus, it is relevant to examine public participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), providing ways to improve its effectiveness. The emphasis of this thesis is therefore, to compare the role of public participation in the environmental assessment process in the United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States. It begins by defining the principles of Environmental Impact Assessment and the concept of public participation and explores how the rationales of public participation may be integrated into the environmental planning process. Features of each of the three existing EIA systems are examined since components such as the appropriate legislative framework, the institutional framework, the public, and formal and informal public participation opportunities in the EIA process are the factors contributing towards effective public participation in Environmental Impact Assessment. The author argues that public participation deserves attention because the degree of participation affects the quality of the Environmental Impact Assessment, which, in turn, affects the quality of a decision about a project. Broader participation creates more information and alternatives to be presented to decision makers, enhancing the opportunity to mesh public values and government policy. Although public participation may slow down the EIA process, the real goal of EIA theory is to ensure sustainable development, no matter how long the EIA process takes. Apparently, the three EIA laws discussed in the comparative analysis, are consistent with sustainable development since these laws operate to force considerations of environmental impacts into the decision making process. Moreover, properly drafted EIA laws are based on a strict standard of procedural compliance to ensure that the responsible decision makers are fully apprised of the environmental consequences which they review. Involving the public is a safeguard against bad or politically motivated decisions, and a mechanism to increase public awareness of the delicate balance between economic and environmental trade offs. If conducted openly, it may ultimately increase public confidence in the decision making process. Public participation has the potential to enhance the maintenance of accountability in public and private sectors. The public should realise that they, individually or through interest groups, can participate in public matters that affect them, with a view to persuading decision makers and shaping environmental policies. The thesis further reviews the different roles the public can play during the various stages of an Environmental Impact Assessment process, whereby formal and informal public participation opportunities are explored according to the country-specific context. The comparative analytical framework in the thesis reveals significant variations within and between the three countries. Apparently, the three EIA systems seem to possess more or less mature, well-defined and formal Environmental Impact Assessment systems. For the UK and South Africa, examples could be taken from the United States, which has developed more adequate public participation provisions than those of the European Directive and of the South African EIA Regulations, particularly as far as the level and degree of public participation and techniques are concerned.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Ten spyte van beroepe op groter openbare deelname in alle aspekte van omgewingsbeplanning, inpakbeoordeling en besluitneming, is geleenthede vir deelname in die beplannings-, administratiewe en wetlike sisteme wat hierdie aktiwiteite beheer, beperk. Openbare deelname word dikwels gereduseer tot 'n proseduriële oefening in plaas van 'n substantiewe proses te wees om die publiek in omgewingsbesluitneming te betrek. Dit is derhalwe relevant dat openbare deelname in Omgewingsimpakbeoordeling (algemeen in Engels na verwys as EIA) ondersoek word tot einde wyses vir effektiwiteitsverbetering daar te stel. Die aksent van hierdie tesis is dus 'n vergelyking van openbare deelname in omgewingsbeoordeling in die Verenigde Koninkryk, Suid-Afrika en die Verenigde State van Amerika onderskeidelik. Daar word begin met definiëring van die beginsels van EIA en die konsep "openbare deelname" en 'n ondersoek na integrering van die rationales vir openbare deelname in die omgewingsbeplanningsproses. Kenmerke van elk van die drie bestaande EIA -stelsels word ondersoek aangesien komponente soos die geskikte wetgewende raamwerk, die institusionele raamwerk, die publiek, asook formele en informele openbare deelname-geleenthede in die EIA -proses, die bydraende faktore is tot effektiewe openbare deelname in EIA. Die navorser argumenteer dat openbare deelname aandag verdien omdat die graad van deelname die kwaliteit van die EIA affekteer met voortspruitende effek vir die kwaliteit van besluitneming rakende 'n projek. Breër deelname skep meer inligting en alternatiewe vir voorlegging aan die besluitnemers ter verbetering van die geleentheid vir die ineenskakeling van openbare waardes en regeringsbeleid. Hoewel openbare deelname die EIA-proses mag vertraag, is die werklike doel van EIA-teorie die bewerkstelliging van volhoubare ontwikkeling, ongeag van hoe lank die proses ook mag duur. Die drie EIA-wette bespreek in die vergelykende analise is oënskynlik konsekwent in terme van volhoubare ontwikkeling aangesien hierdie wette gerig is op die inkorporering van omgewingsimpak oorwegings in die besluitnemingsproses. Verder is behoorlik geformuleerde EIA-wette gebaseer op 'n streng standaard van proseduriële onderworpenheid ten einde te verseker dat die verantwoordelike besluitnemers ten volle ingelig is oor die omgewingsgevolge onder hersiening. Die insluiting van die publiek is 'n voorsorg teen swak of polities gemotiveerde besluite en 'n meganisme om openbare bewustheid ten opsigte van die delikate balans tussen ekonomiese en omgewings komprimieë. As dit openlik gedoen word, behoort dit op die lange duur die publiek se vertoue in die besluitnemingsproses te verhoog. Openbare deelname kan tot die behoud van, deur hul betrokkenheid aanspreeklikheid in die openbare en private sektore bydra. Die publiek moet besef dat hulle deur hulle betrokkenheid, individueel of deur middel van belangegroepe, in openbare aangeleenthede wat hulle raak, beluitnemers kan oorreed en omgewingsbeleid help vorm. Die tesis beskou ook die verskillende rolle wat die publiek gedurende die verskillende fases van 'n Omgewingsimpakbeoordelingsproses kan speel, en verken geleenthede vir formele en informele openbare deelname binne elke land se spefieke konteks. Die vergelykende analitiese raamwerk in die tesis bring betekenisvolle variasies binne en tussen die drie lande aan die lig. Oënskynlik verteenwoordig die drie EIA stelsels min of meer volwasse, goed definieërde en formele Omgewingsimpakbeoordelingstelsels. Die VK en Suid Afrika kan leer uit die voorbeeld van die VSA wat meer voldoende voorsienning vir openbare deelname bied as die van die Europese Direktief en van Suid Afrika se EIA Regulasies, in besonder sover dit die vlak en graad van openbare deelname en tegnieke betref

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