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The voluntary application of the integrated environmental management guidelines by Eskom in KwaZulu-Natal, 1989 to 1997.

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The end of the last century saw a meteoric rise in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and its implementation worldwide subsequent to it being legislated by the United States in 1970. The South African Government's Council for the Environment attempted to emulate international developments in EIA and compiled the Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) guidelines of 1989 which delineated the procedure for undertaking EIAs for development projects in South Africa. It was envisaged that these guidelines would ultimately be made law. The period between 1989 and 1997 was a window period when the IEM guidelines were implemented voluntarily. This period therefore constitutes an important era in the history of EIA in South Africa to which constant reference is made and upon which further development in EIA in South Africa has been reliant. The period 1989 to 1997 also coincided with a major increase in the bulk electricity supply to KwaZulu-Natal by Eskom, the national electricity utility. Eskom had actively tracked the evolution of Environmental Management globally and was considered to be at the forefront of Industrial Environmental Management in South Africa and there was therefore an expectation that Eskom would implement the IEM guidelines. In this study twelve EIAs for Eskom powerlines and substations constructed in KZN for the period were analysed and trends in the implementation of the IEM guidelines extrapolated. This study highlights the extent to which the IEM guidelines were implemented. It discusses the problems attendant to its implementation, which were found to be common to the implementation of EIA globally. From this research it became clear that factors external to the IEM guidelines needed to be resolved before the IEM guidelines could be implemented. The administrative requirement was one of the most important and necessary requirements for successful implementation, but this had not been thoroughly anticipated by Eskom nor the guidelines themselves. This required that there was major reform to policy and company procedure, which had to be clearly understood and accepted, before IEM could be effectively implemented. As a consequence, the implementation of the various steps of the IEM guidelines seldom revealed consistent and satisfactory implementation. Even where the IEM guidelines were more closely followed and implemented, previously entrenched technocentrist procedures and ideals persisted and therefore IEM was subverted and implemented with the wrong goal in mind. There was also an expectation that there would be an improvement in EIA practice with time. It was found that there was a greater association between the quality of the EIA conducted and the Eskom Environmental Officer responsible for it, rather than a consistent improvement with time. Thus integration into the project process of environmental procedure is a complex process and it requires firstly that a company is reformed. Reform has subsequently begun to transpire in Eskom. This reform includes education of company employees, which in turn is linked to political will which is necessary to effect the changes required to apply a procedure such as the IEM guidelines. This study reviews the implementation of the IEM guidelines in Eskom during this important development phase. It therefore reflects on a key portion of the history of EIA implementation in this country. The study provides insight into organisational reform and the voluntary commitments required for successful implementation of EIA. Benefit can be drawn from this study for future implementation of EIA even though EIA legislation now exists, as some form of voluntariness, political will and organisational reform is always imperative for ETA's successful and effective implementation.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of Natal, Durban, 2003.


Eskom (Firm), Electric power production--Environmental aspects., Overhead electric lines--Environmental aspects., Environmental impact analysis--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Environmental science.