The integration of strategic environmental assessment with integrated development planning : a case study of the uMhlathuze Municipality.
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The fundamental benefit of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in South Africa is the integration of the concept of sustainability into plans and programmes. This provides the means to incorporate the environmental and social objectives of districts and regions into their policy, planning and investment decision-making processes. At present, there is limited legislative support for SEA in South Africa, and there is little incentive for municipalities to pursue SEAs. All municipalities in South Africa are however, required by the Municipal Systems Act (Act 32 of 2000) to undertake an Integrated Development Planning (IDP) process to which SEA can add value, by providing a practical guide to integrating the concept of sustainability into the planning process. Furthermore, by integrating SEA with the IDP process, the ethos of sustainable development and the country's Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) policy and legislation can be effectively applied to local government development planning. The uMhlathuze Municipality embarked on an SEA linked to their IDP process in 2002. The City of uMhlathuze is unique in that it has a rapidly evolving industrial sector within a poor community base. Basic priorities include job creation and fostering a better quality of life, whilst allowing for further development in an already polluted environment. An attempt was made by the Municipality to integrate an SEA with the IDP process to allow for environmental and sustainability considerations to be reviewed against the prevailing environmental conditions. The CSIR was commissioned to undertake this study. In theory, SEA incorporated into the IDP process would ensure that the urban plan for the Municipality is along a sustainability trajectory. This study critically assesses SEA by reviewing its origins, logical connection to the IEM framework and, its application in South Africa. The study also critically evaluates the uMhlathuze Municipality's IDP reports, to determine whether there is value in SEAs integrated into the IDP process. The challenges faced and lessons learnt for the development of a common approach to the integration of SEA into the IDP process are highlighted.