Countries from all corners of the world were represented at various environment and development summits which were convened to formulate a policy framework for integrating environmental concerns and sustainability issues in development planning. Thus, the Environmental Impact Assessment came into being.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines EIA as “a systematic framework for identifying, predicting, and evaluating the environmental effects of proposed actions and projects.” It aims to gauge likely environmental impacts of a proposal and finding options to minimise environmental damage.

South Africa has adopted the process of EIA as early as 1989 in the Environmental Conservation Act; however, regulations specific to EIA were first passed in 1997. In 2006, the EIA regulations under the National Environmental Management Act were passed. Subsequently, the EIA regulations have undergone several replacements, the latest in 2014.

The stakeholders involved in the Environmental Impact Assessment are:

  • the Applicant;
  • the Environmental Assessment Practitioner (the party managing the process on behalf of the Applicant);
  • the Competent Authority (will decide whether to grant or refuse authorisation based on the outcome of the Environmental Impact Assessment process); and
  • Interested and Affected Parties.

The steps involved flows as follows:

It all starts when the applicant appoints an environmental assessment practitioner to manage the application. The appointed practitioner will assist in determining whether a proposed activity is to undergo a basic assessment, scoping and EIA, or request an exemption depending on its listing.

The EIA Regulations (2014) specify activities that may have detrimental impact on the environment. These activities include newly-built and expansion projects, mining applications, phased activities and developments that are located near, in or can have an impact (directly or indirect) on sensitive receptors (e.g., wetlands, biodiversity hotspots etc.). The activities are classified into three Listing Notices. Activities contained in Listing Notices 1 and 3 require a basic EIA to be conducted, while activities in Listing Notice 2 require a more comprehensive assessment, which includes a scoping assessment.

EIA Regulations have historically placed high importance on the Environmental Assessment Practitioner remaining independent and objective of the development and that the public are sufficiently included in the application process. In addition, the 2014 Regulations have implemented stringent time frames to complete EIA’s. As such, it is recommended that an environmental consultant be appointed to manage EIA applications, so that the required scope of works is conducted independently, objectively and within the time frames required.

The competent authority will decide whether to grant or refuse authorisation based on the outcome of the environmental impact assessment. The decision made by the competent authority to either grant or refuse the environmental authorisation may be appealed.

For more information or to book a consultation with Gondwana Environment Solutions, contact us today.