The quality of environmental impact reports for explosive industry projects in South Africa
Van der Vyver, Felicity Brunesia
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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process that seeks to reduce the negative environmental consequences of listed development activities, which could have a detrimental effect on the environment, in the advance of their implementation, and a requirement of legislation in South Africa. An important element of the systematic EIA process is the submission of an environmental impact or scoping report or an environmental impact report (EIR) to the relevant governmental department, interested and affected parties and/or specialist for review to determine the report's adequacy before a project can be authorised or if further information is required. The information made available in reports to decision-makers with regard to developments with the potential of affecting explosive projects, plays a significant role in the authorisation of the project after the authority review process, which is dependent on the quality of the report. In order to contribute more effectively to sustainable development, more attention must be placed on assessing the quality of ElA's as part of determining how effectively EIA has been functioning in South Africa; hence this study is aimed at assessing the quality of EIA assessment reports of four projects with the potential of impacting on explosive industry projects. The objectives of the study included the review by independent reviewers of the quality of four-selected impact reports using a checklist, analysis of the review process results and provision of recommendations to improve the quality of environmental impact reports for-explosive projects. Based on the review results it is concluded that the quality of the four reports for-explosive projects. Based on the review results it is concluded that the quality of the four reports were of an acceptable standard, although certain areas were found poorly performed i.e. improvement with regard to identification of key impacts and considerations of alternatives and mitigation as well as the control and treatment of waste. Otherwise the review method is fairly robust and consistent and therefore can be seen as a reliable indication of EIR quality. The following was recommended to improve the quality of the reports for explosive projects: The use of a quality review checklist for explosive projects by EIA practitioners and authorities to be used as an additional tool to the EIA regulations (DEAT 2002) and the Integrated Environmental Management series (DEAT 2002) can further improve the quality of the El reports for explosive projects. • The use by EIA practitioners of an explosive review checklist will assist in ensuring that all key aspects are addressed before submission to relevant authorities, i.e. the report contains all pertinent information and is technically sound, the report is set-up clearly and coherently organized and presented so that it can be understood and that it has addressed all the key issues to make a decision about the proposed development. This will further assist in fast-tracking the approval process often delayed by the request of additional information from the applicant as a result of inadequate reports. • Regular use of the review checklist by EIA practitioners and authorities for ascertaining the quality of the environmental impact reports will contribute to a baseline of EIR quality for evaluating EIA practice for explosive projects under the new regulations promulgated in June 2006.