Screening of EIA in the Free State Province : a comparative analysis between the 1997 and 2006 EIA Regulations
Welman, Coert Nicolaas Jacobus
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Between September 1997 and June 2006, the South African National and Provincial Government received more than 43 600 separate EIA applications, which is particularly high compared to international trends. This was, in the main, attributable to the weak screening mechanism incorporated into the Regulations. When introducing the new EIA Regulations in April 2006, Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk highlighted some of the specific improvements over the previous Regulations that have been incorporated into the new Regulations. The 1997 EIA system was often bogged down by over-exhaustive work on relatively minor applications. The 2006 EIA Regulations introduced an updated screening mechanism and It is estimated that this will result in a 20% reduction in the number of EIA applications. The main research question of this dissertation focuses on the comparative effect of the screening of EIA applications between the 1997 and 2006 South African EIA Regulations. On provincial level, the Free State was investigated. In order to address this research a two-pronged approach was followed. Firstly a review of both international and local literature was conducted on EIA in general and screening in particular, which was then interpreted to relate to a South African context. Secondly, EIA project data were obtained from the Free State Department of Tourism, Environmental and Economic Affairs as well as from industry. These data were analysed in line with the research sub-questions and supported the findings of the literature survey. The research confirmed that the average monthly project load nationally reduced from 425 to 306 applications, representing an average reduction of 28% between the two EIA regimes. In the Free State, the average monthly project load reduced from 22 to 12 applications, representing an average reduction of 46% between the two EIA regimes. The predicted 20% reduction in the number of applications was therefore realised . The possible effect of national and global economic downturn was not included in the investigation. Under the 1997 EIA Regulations, five activities resulted in almost 90% of all submitted projects, i.e. communication network structures, change of land use, dangerous goods activities, public and private resorts and electricity infrastructure. When looking at the 2006 EIA Regulations it was found that four activities triggered EIA in almost 63% of all projects submitted for Basic Assessment. These were transformation of land, construction of masts, concentration of animals and construction of roads. Three activities triggered EIA in almost 79% of all projects submitted for full . EIA. These were developments larger than 20 hectares, underground tanks and filling stations and sewage treatment with a capacity larger than 15 000m3 per year. It is concluded that although the number of EIA applications has been reduced under the NEMA regime, the spread in terms of types of activities has shown significant similarities. Generally speaking it is only a change in the types of infrastructure development, from electricity to roads and sewerage which has been prominent.