The quality of environmental management frameworks in South Africa
Environmental assessments and authorisations surrounding project level developments are often made in isolation, without consideration of the regional or strategic context within which individual developments are done. This research investigates the quality of Environmental Management Frameworks (EMF) as strategic environmental instrument. EMF is a unique South African instrument that was first conceptualised in 1989, enacted in 2006 and updated in 2010. EMFs were developed to map environmental sensitivity to aid the screening out of undesired developments in sensitive environments and to minimise unnecessary project level assessments in preferred development areas. EMFs form an important link between environmental assessment (EA) processes and planning strategies such as Spatial Development Frameworks (SDFs) and Integrated Development Plans (IDPs), due to their spatial output of environmental sensitivity maps and their ability to feed strategic assessment processes required by SDFs. They have a legal mandate which ensures their assimilation and use. This research uses a multiple case study approach to review seven EMF documents for their quality. The quality aspects identified are the process, methodology and documentation components, using the printed EMF documentation as primary information source. Quality review criteria were subsequently developed to investigate these inputs, using the legal mandate of EMF as basis. Each case was rated for compliance with the quality criteria using a six–level rating schedule. Further analyses were made by comparing the performance of cases against one another. Public participation emerged as the weakest component of EMF practice, while aspects of sensitivity analysis also performed weaker than other aspects. More focus is required on aligning scales and resolutions of map inputs, mapping methods and general integration of spatial data, especially those of adjoining districts. The need to substantiate a rationale for buffer determination also requires further refinement. The practice of conducting EMF is well established and it can be valuable in sustainable development planning and decisionmaking. Recommendations to enhance the sustainability outcomes and hence effectiveness of this instrument are made, as well as future research objectives for increasing its utility.