The quality of Environmental Authorisations in the Mpumalanga Province
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been identified as a management tool to achieve sustainability goals. The concept of sustainability broadly encompasses decisions and actions that will support and protect life sustaining systems on earth to provide for our current population and future generations in terms of social, economic and environmental needs. A broad definition of the purpose of EIA is to inform the decision making process in development projects. The EIA system follows the Deming cycle (plan, do, check, act) and includes elements such as environmental impact assessment reports (EIAR), environmental management plans/programmes (EMPs), implementation of EMPs, authorisation conditions, follow-up (audits), and corrective action after follow-up. One way to measure the effectiveness of an EIA system is through evaluating EIAR quality. Environmental authorisations (EAu) together with EIA are part of the Deming cycle where environmental performance objectives are determined at project start-up. Previous studies showed that EAu conditions have an influence on environmental management practices. Although the quality of EIA has been assessed to a large extent in South Africa over the past 10 years, very little research has been done to assess the quality of EAu. Therefore, in this dissertation the focus is on evaluating the quality of EAu through developing a suitable quality review package, assessing a sample of EAu in the Mpumalanga province and comparing quality over time and across sectors. The main aim of the research has been achieved and all research objectives answered. A suitable quality review package was developed building on the work of Caddick (2015) and Lee & Colley (1992). The results of the EAu review quality indicates that RA 1, 2 and 4 are areas of strength in all four regulatory regimes and showed improved performance over time since the start of mandatory EIA in the ECA era up the NEMA 2014 era. RA 3 showed the weakest performance. Performance across sectors showed the best performing sector overall is linear construction, followed by construction, agriculture and lastly the mining sector. All sectors performed to a satisfactory level in RA 1, 2 and 4 and their respective categories, reflecting the results of the overall quality status. The performance on sectors in RA 3 shows mixed results across categories, but performed weak overall on RA level.