The public management of environmental impact assessments in South Africa.
The thesis explores the nature of public management of environmental impact assessments in South Africa. As concern for the environment and for the attainment of sustainable development has grown globally, so too has the adoption of environmental management systems in line with this goal. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) is regarded by many, as being an effective tool that, when used within and supported by these management systems, will advance the attainment of sustainable development. While the environmental impact assessment is an important tool, experience with it illustrates how its effectiveness is constrained by a number of factors. These range from shortcomings with the technical design of the procedure to shortcomings of an institutional nature. Research has shown that the technical soundness of design will be of little consequence to the effectiveness of the procedure if the political structures and decision-making processes are not taken into account. The technical constraints on EIA do not reflect a weakness of science rather they reflect the reality that environmental impact assessment has evolved as an ongoing political process within development planning. These issues will be explored in this thesis with particular reference to experience with the implementation of EIA in the United States under the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969. The issue of public management is considered by looking at South Africa's environmental management strategy in the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1989, and the provisions in the Constitution that directly impact on the three spheres of government's responsibilities towards the environment are highlighted. A case study ofthe provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal is also undertaken in an endeavour to illustrate the 'practical reality' versus the 'procedural ideal' of policy implementation. Provinces are constrained in their ability to effectively implement EIAs by financial and capacity constraints. The manner in which these two provinces have attempted to overcome these constraints in order to implement EIAs will be considered in this thesis. As research undertaken has shown and in conclusions drawn in this thesis, EIAs can be considered an important tool in the world move to sustainable development. But the are simply a tool and cannot be expected to operate in isolation if they are to be effective. They need to be supported by strong national policy, co-operative governance and the necessary budget allocation if they are to operate in the manner they were designed to and if they are to achieve sustainable development.
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