Land use changes within the uMngeni and Mpofana municipalities : an assessment of environmental impact assessments, 1999-2010.
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Land is a non-renewable and finite resource which comprises a variety of ecosystems that support biological diversity and provide food, shelter and raw materials to society. With a multitude of land uses competing for this precious resource, the land is becoming fragmented, altered and transformed. Land transformation has been acknowledged as a key contributor to the degradation of the environment and has serious implications for poverty, food security and biodiversity. This research focuses on land use changes within the uMngeni and Mpofana municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. The main objectives were to critically review Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) decisions and document those EIAs received and finalised over the period 1999 – 2010, spatially define the location of decided EIAs, determine the types of EIA decisions issued, characterise the type and extent of land uses, describe patterns of land use change and identify the key factors responsible for changes in land use. During the research period a total of 337 EIA applications were received and 332 EIA applications were completed in the uMngeni Municipality and 182 EIA applications were received and 178 completed in the Mpofana Municipality. The types of EIA decisions issued consist of Records of Decisions, Environmental Authorisations, Exemptions, Withdrawals and Commencements. The key classes of land use changes that have occurred in uMngeni Municipality are Agriculture to Residential, whilst within the Mpofana Municipality the predominant land use change occurred within the Agricultural land use category. For both municipalities the Agriculture to Residential land use category experienced the greatest extent in land use change. In authorising EIA applications, the predominant key decision factors were based on the comments from Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife and Amafa aKwaZulu-Natali. In refusing EIA decisions the findings of various specialist studies, incompatible land uses and land use planning initiatives were the predominant key decision factors. The conclusions are that agricultural land is being transformed for use as nonagricultural activities specifically that of residential use. The recommendations include the need for accurate record keeping of data and information pertaining to EIAs and the integration of spatial planning tools and initiatives including Geographical Information Systems in the review of EIAs to improve decision making.