A comparative analysis of EIA report quality before and after 2006 in South Africa
Van Heerden, Aletta Johanna
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On 18 June 2010 new NEMA 2010 EIA Regulations were promulgated and came into effect on 2 August 2010 in order to improve the effectiveness of EIA. The question of effectiveness, therefore still remains. The quality of EIRs under the 1997 regulations in South Africa has been researched, although not as extensively as in other parts of the world. It was concluded that the quality of EIRs in South Africa are generally satisfactory, although a number of problems were identified, e.g. timing of the EIA, the identification of activities which require authorization or not, the consideration of alternatives, the absence of any time limits, the absence of requirements for monitoring and enforcing compliance, and objectivity. The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), (Act no 107, 1998) was amended and new regulations promulgated in 2006. No research has been published regarding the quality of EIRs produced in South Africa under the 2006 regulations. Since it was the intent of the new regulations to improve EIA effectiveness, it is necessary that the quality of EIRs produced under the new EIA system be investigated. As in the other studies in South Africa, the Lee and Colley review model was used as basis for the comparative analysis of the EIRs before and after 2006. A sample of 26 EIRs, 11 under the 1997 EIA system and 15 under the 2006 EIA system, obtained from the then Impact Assessment Directorate of the National Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) archives in Pretoria were reviewed. The main conclusions were that the majority of the EIRs under the 1997 system were of an acceptable standard and that the overall quality of the EIRs did not improve after the promulgation of the 2006 regulations. The descriptive and presentational parts of the EIRs were more satisfactorily addressed, while the analytical parts such as impact significance were addressed less satisfactorily. EIR quality appears to be on par with international standards, but there are areas of distinct weaknesses. As the 2006 EIRs included some of the first EIRs conducted under the new regulations, there is potential for the quality to improve over time. However, the areas that still need attention are the identification and evaluation of impacts, impact magnitude and monitoring programmes.