Evaluating screening within Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the Western Cape Province, South Africa
South Africa has seen four different Environmental impact assessment (EIA) regimes since the mandatory introduction of EIA in 1997. Each new regime resulted in the refinement of the screening mechanism in order to address any challenges and shortcomings experienced. The screening mechanism in South Africa has been criticised for leading to too many EIAs being conducted, putting a strain on administrative capacity as well as causing costly delays. A previous study conducted by Retief et al. (2011) compared the performance of screening between the 1997 and 2006 EIA regimes in order to determine the improvement of screening in South Africa. The aim of this research was to build on the existing research and evaluate the screening mechanism in South Africa since 2006. Data were obtained from the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning on the types of activities that required EIAs in the Province between the 2006 and 2014 regimes. In order to achieve the overall aim of the research, which is to critically evaluate the screening mechanism within the EIA practice in the Western Cape Province, three research questions had to be answered. These research question is 1) What are the challenges facing screening within the EIA process; 2) What types of activities triggered EIAs in the Western Cape Province; and 3) How has screening evolved from the previous EIA regimes? To answer these research questions, a mixed method research design was used. In order to answer the first research question, a literature study was conducted to identify what challenges screening is facing within EIA. Research question two was answered by means of a data analysis involving qualitative research and an activity breakdown analysis. Research question three was answered through conducting semi-structured interviews to gather quantitative data which was used to evaluate the results from the activity breakdown analysis. The results from the activity breakdown analysis identified five types of activities prominently triggered throughout all the regimes (2006 National Environmental Management Act (NEMA); 2010 NEMA and 2014 NEMA). These activities include construction within a watercourse or the construction of a dam; the transformation of land or clearance of indigenous vegetation; the construction of roads; the transportation or treatment of sewage, water and storm water; and the handling or storage of dangerous goods. Research conducted by Welman (2009) and the results from the interviews, suggested that activities found most prominent in other provinces of South Africa correlate positively with the results from the activity breakdown analysis. The overall results shown that the number of EIA applications had a significant decrease from 1997 ECA to 2014 NEMA, whilst still triggering those activities with the potentially most significant impacts.