The use of geographic information systems in the intergrated [sic] environmental management process : a case study of the Eastern Shores State Forest.
Liversage, Timothy Mark.
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With the increasing demands that human beings place on the environment, a concerted effort needs to be made to ensure that the environment is conserved and utilised in a sustainable manner. Therefore, it is imperative that all development actions be carefully scrutinised. The Integrated Environmental Management process may be just the process to address such development problems. The IEM process aims not only to identify those activities that would have excessively negative impacts on the environment it also looks at proposing alternative development strategies that may reduce the environmental impact of development. A tool which is being well received as being able to assist in such decision making is a Geographic Information System (GIS). The most suitable location for road networks that would have least environmental impact within the Eastern Shores State Forest, KwaZuluNatal, were determined by implementing the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) along with Multi-Criteria Evaluation (MCE) process within real-time GIS. The location of road networks is a fundamental aspect of development due to the many negative impacts they may have on the environment. The AHP not only aided in identifying all the elements required to make a decision more accurately. It also allowed one to recognise the interrelationship between the various elements. The biggest advantage however, of using this model is that it allowed for the establishment of relative mathematically-based weights for the criteria. This effectively aided in identifying which of the vegetation types (ie. wetlands, swamp forest, grasslands, wetlands and coastal forest and thicket) in view of environmental consultants and ecologists would be most conducive to development. In so doing minimising the impact of the development. iii The MCE provided the ideal tool to incorporate these relative weights in order to combine them to arrive at an image that contained all the relative weights of all the various factors. A spatial database was constructed and a number of relevant images developed, using various GIS techniques. From these images it was possible to determine the most suitable locations for road networks within the Eastern Shores State Forest. Particular attention was focused on how GIS may be integrated within the IEM process. It was found that GIS could not only accurately determine where development should take place, but also established that it is an effective tool for aiding in the decision making process by providing accurate detailed maps of the area proposed for development. The success and overall simplicity of the procedure in this study suggests that GIS would be valuable to the IEM process.