A review package for South African EIA follow-up performance
Over the last couple of decades the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process has grown to be an important tool for environmental management. However, EIA follow-up, widely considered as a critical step in the process, is neglected globally. To improve the success of EIA follow-up, 17 International Best Practice Principles (IBPP) for follow-up have been developed. In this study, the provisions made in the South African mandatory requirements, regulations, and guidelines as well as the successful implementation of followup in selected case studies under the ECA, NEMA 2006, and NEMA 2010 EIA regulations were evaluated according to the 17 IBPP. In order to review the selected case studies under these three regulatory regimes, a review package for follow-up was developed, with review topics based on the 17 IBPP, and the package designed on the same basis as the Lee-Colley Review Package. Six projects were selected under the ECA regulatory regime and seven under the NEMA 2006 regime, but for the NEMA 2010 regime only two case studies were available. The selected case studies included wastewater management facilities, housing, recreational facilities, tourism facilities, and infrastructure development projects such as pipelines, solar plants, filling stations and roads. The competent authority in these instances ranged from National to Provincial (mainly Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Northern Cape) government. The results indicated that the overall performance of follow-up for the 15 case studies in terms of the 17 IBPP was satisfactory under all three the regulatory regimes, with best performance under the NEMA 2006 regime. A number of areas of strength and a few areas of weaknesses were observed. The strengths included well-defined follow-up outcomes, objectives, targets clear performance criteria; good commitment to follow-up activities; provision for timely, adaptive and action orientated follow-up programmes in both the pre-decision and post decision EIA phases; proponent and regulator accountability for implementing EIA follow-up; and provision of adequate resources. Weaknesses included poor description of objectives and goals, a lack of communicating and providing feedback on EIA follow-up outcomes, a shortage of genuine opportunities to involve the community in follow-up activities, and failure to address sustainability issues beyond a project level. Therefore, despite the weaknesses, it appears that in terms of the criteria of this study, follow-up in South Africa is relatively well performed. The results suggest that the roles of the EAP, the ECO and competent authority are important contributing factors to the successful implementation of the 17 IBPP for follow-up. These results are good news in terms of EIA follow-up in the South African context, however further research in follow-up is required covering more provinces, sectors and EIA regimes. It is recommended that the areas of weakness identified be addressed in future EIA practice, including better involvement of the community in follow-up activities; improving requirements on communicating follow-up outcomes; addressing sustainable issues beyond project level; clearly defining follow-up objectives and goals; and clearly defining the role of the EAP, the ECO, and the competent authority with regards to addressing follow-up principles.