Positioning ecological justice in environmental decision making.
The need for housing developments in South Africa has grown significantly over that last 12 years. On the one end of the scale there is the desperate need for housing by the homeless and on the other end there is substantial growth of the middleclass indicating better buying power and the explosion of the property market that made investment in housing very attractive. Examples of these two parallel levels of housing are the Sipumulele low cost housing development that is situated in the eThekwini Municipality and was developed by government. On the other side of the scale is the upmarket Koelwaters residential development situated on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal in the Hibiscus Municipality and was developed by a private developer. In conjunction with this demand for housing there is also international pressure to comply with sustainable develop guidelines and approaches. Both these developments are situated on ecological sensitive land. As legal requirements both these developments were required to do scoping reports to assess their environmental impacts. In South African, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for various new developments has been formally required in terms of Legislation for the last 8 years, although the legislation has been in place for the last 16 years. Is this legislation assisting in securing more sustainable development? It is agued that sustainable development should be founded on ecological justice principles. This research explores the concept of ecological justice and how it is linked with sustainable development. It identifies ecological justice principles that should be used in the compilation and assessment of EIAs. The field research explored how decision makers in practise are using the current legislation and if they are at all considering ecological justice in their decision making. This is done though a serious of interviews with the critical decision makers with regard to EIA's and key role players in the development process of specifically the two above mentioned housing projects. During the interviews qualitative questions were asked relating to the developments, the EIA process and ecological justice. There was a focus on interpreting the awareness of decision makers regarding development and layout and on improving developments to determine to what level they follow ecological justice principles. In the broader sense this research is contributing to the understanding of ecological justice and the clarifications of ecological justice principles. It also contributes to understanding the South African housing development context and the movement of South African Developments towards sustainability.