The obligation on environmental authorities to consider socio-economic factors in EIAs : a critical examination of s 24 of NEMA.
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Environmental impact assessments were developed in the United States with an object to build into the decision-making processes an awareness of environmental considerations. EIAs were imported into South African law and the scope somewhat expanded. In addition to the obligation to consider the impact of activities on the environment, the obligation to consider the impact of activities on socio-economic factors was categorically stated in subsection 24(1) and further endorsed by subsection 24(7) of the National Environmental Management Act which laid down the minimum mandatory requirements for an EIA. This was further reinforced by the Constitutional Court judgment in Fuel Retailers Association of southern Africa v Director-General Environmental Management, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga Province. Both subsections 24(1) and 24(7) were amended in 2004 and 2008. The 2004 and 2008 amendment Acts removed reference to socio-economic factors from subsection 24(1) and removed the investigation of impacts on socio-economic factors from the minimum mandatory EIA requirements under subsection 24(7). This is notwithstanding the fact that the principles of environmental management and the objectives of integrated environmental management in the same Act somewhat require the procedures for investigation to take into account the socio-economic factors likely to be affected. The main objective of this dissertation was to investigate the nature of this obligation and to critically analyse the reasons that might have prompted the parliament to enact subsequent amendments to the Act. Hansards debates and various parliamentary reports were conducted in the study in order to find the reasons for the amendments.
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