Effectiveness of environmental management frameworks in South Africa : evaluating stakeholder perceptions and expectations.
The interest in environment and environmental management in South Africa is growing rapidly. Although the sector is still developing, South Africa has achieved commendable progress compared to global trends and standards. As the natural resources are becoming increasingly vulnerable by over-utilization and environmental degradation, the development and implementation of effective decision support tools is becoming increasingly important. For these reasons, it is likely that environmental management tools will continue to develop in South Africa and it is therefore vital that these tools are developed to ensure that development is conducted in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner. Environmental Management Frameworks (EMFs), as one of the decision support tools within the Integrated Environmental Management system, were officially proclaimed under National Environmental Management Act, Act 107 of 1998, Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (NEMA EIA Regulations) of 2006, which have since been amended to NEMA EMF Regulations. The Department of Environmental Affairs, as a leading agent in addressing environmental issues, is tasked with ensuring that Environmental Management Frameworks become efficient and effective in South Africa. In spite of existing Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) tools such as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Environmental Management Plan (EMP), and Environmental Management Systems (EMS), there has been a strong debate by stakeholders around the development of Environmental Management Frameworks as decision support tools in spite of other existing planning tools at national, provincial and local levels. Debates are around, for example, the actual need for EMFs, their application, context and scope, and around the outcomes from applying Environmental Management Frameworks in South Africa. The lack of knowledge around Environmental Management Frameworks and their potential impacts, both within Government and in the general public, makes research and development of Environmental Management Frameworks essential to provide a clear pathway towards understanding the potential impacts. Therefore, this research has been conducted to evaluate perceptions and expectations of stakeholders involved in the development process of Environmental Management Frameworks. By understanding stakeholders’ perceptions and expectations, it is hoped that the research findings will be utilized to devise possible strategies to make Environmental Management Frameworks efficient and effective in South Africa. The results of the research lead to the formulation of a number of recommendations that will hopefully lead to their adoption, as suggested above. It is also the intention that the research will be absorbed by a wider audience, so that the challenges in the potentially successful implementation of EMFs in the future are more fully understood. Recommendations include the need for legal enforcement of EMFs with the Department of Environmental Affairs setting in place succinct EMF regulations and guidelines as a matter of urgency; that the Department of Environmental Affairs establish viable partnerships with key stakeholders to benefit from their collective wisdom; and that government should enhance such publicprivate partnerships in the development of EMFs by ensuring realistic budgetary allocations to achieve desired outcomes. This dissertation acknowledges the new EMF Regulations of 2010 but adheres to the NEMA EIA Regulations of 2006. The research was already finalized when the new EMF Regulations came into effect.
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