A critical review of the environmental impact assessment system in South Africa based on case studies and a literature review.
This study represents a review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system in South Africa based on case studies. It takes the form of two separate but interrelated components. Component A sets out the rationale for the research, the approach and objectives, a conceptual framework and a statement of methodology. These aspects are supported by a detailed literature review. It is stated as the broad rationale of the research to determine whether the current EIA system can be improved. This is approached through an update on EIA reviews. It is not only the intention of the review to fill an existing gap in literature on the subject, but also to provide findings and recommendations on procedure that may positively contribute to the system and by implication, the process of EIA in South Africa. Certain objectives are realised in the literature review. An understanding of the review process in the context of EIA in South Africa is provided in sections on relevant terminology, the history and status quo of environmental assessment in South Africa as well as local and international experiences. Finally a framework is proposed for purposes of review. In order to ensure international relevance this framework uses as its basis the international best practice review criteria of Glasson, Therivel and Chadwick (1999) and Fuller (1999). This basis is amalgamated and extended with local review criteria contained in the White Paper on Environmental Management Policy, July 1997, the Guideline Document on EIA RegUlations, April 1998 and the Integrated Environmental Management Information Series (20022004). The following review categories are used: Description of the environment; screening, scoping, consultation and impact identification; prediction and evaluation of impacts; mitigation and monitoring; non-technical summary; organisation and interpretation of information and the appropriateness of institutional controls. Ratings are allocated according to five different responses (non-compliance, low compliance, moderate compliance, high compliance and full compliance). 3 Ratings of non-compliance and low compliance also serve as an indication of key improvement areas. The review framework that is proposed in Component A is used in Component B to conduct an in-depth analysis of two cases studies representing different environmental authorisation applications in the South African medical incineration sector. The case studies are reviewed by allocating numeric values to respective criteria and comparing ratings allocated to the respective case studies. All review categories, with the exception of the category dealing with institutional controls, are allocated ratings of low compliance. Both case studies are allocated similar ratings with regard to all review categories.These results suggest low overall quality and ample room for improvement on most aspects of EIA in South Africa. The results are discussed by relating it to possible explanations and corresponding recommendations found in relevant literature. It is suggested that the realisation of these recommendations may lead to the improvement of quality in EIA in South Africa. It is the purpose of the study to review environmental impact assessment, thus the broad scope for review criteria. Due to practical constraints two case studies were used. The number of case studies does not allow for provincial comparisons as was initially envisaged. The significance of this study is found in the introduction and piloting of a comprehensive review framework. The application of the review framework on a provincially representative selection of case studies could, therefore, become the focus of subsequent research.
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