Environmental management frameworks: results and inferences of report quality performance in South Africa
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Environmental management frameworks (EMFs) were developed in South Africa as strategic environmental management instruments to map environmental sensitivity in order to aid the screening out of undesired developments and to minimise unnecessary project level environmental impact assessment (EIA) in preferred development areas. This article reports on the quality performance of a sample of seven EMFs conducted in South Africa, in terms of document and procedural quality. To this end, 13 measures (sub-criteria) were developed and classified into five thematic areas (review criteria), against which the EMF documents were appraised using a six-level rating. The review criteria were developed around the validity of sensitivity mapping methodology; the extent to which potential developments were identified as either desired or unfavourable; the effectiveness of EMF outcomes in relation to the broader decision making context; integration of stakeholder engagement inputs into EMF outcomes and the sufficiency of provisions spelling out the implementation of EMF outcomes. Public participation emerged as the weakest component of EMF practice, while certain aspects of sensitivity analysis also performed weaker than other review areas. More focus is required on aligning scales and resolutions of map inputs, mapping methods and general integration of spatial data. The practice of conducting EMF is well established, and can make a valuable contribution to inform strategic planning and to improve the effectiveness of EIA screening in South Africa, provided that appropriate improvements in quality are made, along with proper implementation of the instrument by the authorities, including their formal adoption.