An assessment of cumulative effects in Strategic Environmental Assessment : a critical review of South African practice
Thesis (M.A.)--Stellenbosch University, 2001.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: There is a general consensus that EIA is limited in its scope. The main concern in this regard is that EIA generally fails to handle cumulative impacts effectively, due to its focus on individual projects. Cumulative effects are changes to the environment that are caused by an action in combination with other past, present and future human actions. The evaluation of cumulative effects generally focuses on potential pervasive, regional environmental problems. Due to its strong focus on sustainable development, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), by definition, should address cumulative effects. EIAs in South Africa traditionally only considered the "footprint" or area covered by each project component. However, in recent years the cumulative nature of environmental impacts of human actions has increasingly become a visible concern to the South African public, which has led to the need to infuse cumulative effects concepts into environmental assessments. In theory, a SEA is aimed at improving the way in which cumulative effects are dealt with in environmental assessments. This raises the question of whether past and present South African SEA approaches have effectively addressed the issue of cumulative effects. This thesis provides a critical reappraisal of recent experience in SEA with particular reference to its application in South Africa. It is in this context, of the opportunities and constraints of current SEA application, that this study attempts to determine how best to infuse cumulative effects methodology and philosophy into the emerging South African SEA process. This study evaluates three SEA case studies undertaken in South African, in order to assess how effectively cumulative effects are addressed within the current South African SEA process. The analysis focuses on both innovative approaches used in each study, as well as the limitations and deficiencies of each approach. A generic framework was developed in order to provide broad guidelines for practitioners and reviewers. These guidelines focus on how best to infuse cumulative effects philosophy and methodology into the current SEA process. It is envisaged that this methodology will enhance the current SEA process, in order to ensure that environmental issues are placed on the same level as economic and social considerations in future decision making, to achieve sustainable development.
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