Geographical information systems for environmental impact assessment : a feasibility study

Brink, Ester (2014-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study acknowledges the status quo in South Africa as a country in transformation. Leaders concur that people live under the spell of the evil triplets of poverty, inequality and unemployment amidst the need for development and economic growth. In order to initiate positive change, the 1996 Constitution of South Africa supports integrated environmental management (IEM) and sustainability principles towards ecological, economic and social compromise. Furthermore, the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) was legislated in 1996 along with the mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA) tool in 1998. Despite this legislation being of global standards, current discourse highlights the need for new strategies and tools to improve IEM. The constraint lies in the implementation of policy as the EIA process is limited by inconsistency and project specific focus. Fortuitously technology has developed to levels where web-based tools encourage spatial awareness and individual responsibility for the environment. Usage of participative GIS supported by best practice in governance has the potential to successfully drive IEM. This research builds on the integration of a policy instrument (EIA), spatial technology (GIS), development and human factors (people) as pillars of transdisciplinary methodology to collaborate and gather new information to expand knowledge and augment existing processes. The study objectives required rigorous research and involved a wide range of participants in a feasibility study to provide details of the viability of integrating GIS usage into EIA conduct in South Africa. Participants in the research were selected from the geographical scope of Cape Town and represent involved parties in EIA and potential users of GIS in EIA. The legislative scope is the Western Cape Province. Triangulation, a mixed method approach, was employed to collect and collate qualitative and quantitative information based on the opinions of involved parties in the IEM, EIA and GIS domains. Primary data collection methods included observation, fieldwork, informal, formal and focus group discussions as well as an e-mail questionnaire and a Likert scale e-survey. The knowledge gained was evaluated using SWOT and graphics. The findings indicated that the majority of participants agreed that technology and skills are available to design and develop a web-based application for GIS usage in EIA. However, from the outcome of the study the main challenge is not related to technical skills and capacity, but to align the EIA with IEM sustainability principles for effective decision making and self-regulation. It is therefore envisaged that web-based GIS usage in EIA based on IEM has the potential to reconnect the EIA process by uniting people in knowledge with easy access to information from a central data base repository to an on-line web-based platform that links time and space to inform decision making.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die uitgangspunt van hierdie studie is dat Suid-Afrika 'n land in transformasie is en die behoefte aan ontwikkeling en ekonomiese groei van kardinale belang is weens die armoede, ongelykheid en werkloosheid waaronder baie mense lei. Effektiewe omgewingsbestuur is uiters belangrik om omgewingsbesoedeling en agteruitgang te verhoed. Ten einde 'n positiewe verandering te inisieer, ondersteun die 1996 Grondwet van Suid-Afrika geïntegreerde omgewingsbestuur (GOB) en volhoubaarheidsbeginsels teenoor ekologiese, ekonomiese en sosiale kompromie. Die 1996 Nasionale Wet op Omgewingsbestuur (NEMA) het die omgewingsimpakstudie (OIS)-instrument in 1998 verpligtend verklaar. Die OIS wetgewing is gebaseer op hoë internasionale standaarde, maar ten spyte hiervan beklemtoon die huidige diskoers die behoefte aan nuwe strategieë om OIS in die praktyk effektief te belyn met die GOB beleid. Tans word die OIS proses beperk deur teenstrydigheid tussen gebruikers van die proses sowel as projekspesifieke fokus. Tegnologie het ontwikkel tot 'n vlak waar webgebaseerde GIS ruimtelike bewustheid aanmoedig en individuele verantwoordelikheid vir die omgewing aanbeveel en ondersteun word. Deelnemende GIS, ondersteun deur goeie regering, het die potensiaal om OIS en GOB suksesvol in die praktyk te implementer. Hierdie navorsing bou voort op die integrasie van 'n beleidsinstrument (OIS), ruimtelike tegnologie (GIS) asook ontwikkeling en menslike faktore (mense) en ondersteun die transdissiplinêre metodologie om nuwe inligtig te versamel en vryelik te deel. Die studiedoelwitte het streng navorsingsmetodologie vereis deur 'n wye verskeidenheid van deelnemers te betrek in 'n ondersoek na die haalbaarheid van die integrasie van GIS gebruik in OIS in Suid-Afrika. Deelnemers aan die navorsing is gekies uit die geografiese domein van Kaapstad en was betrokke partye in omgewingsbestuur en potensiële gebruikers van GIS in OIS. Die wetgewende domein is die Wes-Kaap. 'n Gemengde-metode benadering is gevolg om kwalitatiewe en kwantitatiewe inligting te versamel en was gebaseer op die menings van die betrokke partye in die IEM, OIE en GIS terreine. Die kennis is geëvalueer met behulp van SWOT analise en grafika. Die bevindinge dui aan dat die meerderheid van die deelnemers saamstem dat tegnologie en vaardigheid beskikbaar is om 'n program vir GIS-gebruik in OIS te ontwikkel. Die uitslag van die studie dui daarop dat die grootste uitdaging vir effektiewe besluitneming en self-regulering nie verband hou met tegniese vaardighede en kapasiteit nie, maar om die OIS te verenig met GOB-volhoubaarheid beginsels. Die vooruitsig is dus dat web-gebaseerde GIS gebruik in OIS gebaseer op GOB die potensiaal het om mense met kennis te verenig en omgewingsbestuur effektief in te lig.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96143
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