Performance of environmental impact assessment (EIA) screening in South Africa: a comparative analysis between the 1997 and 2006 EIA regimes
Retief, Francois Pieter
Sandham, Luke Alan
Welman, Coert N.J.
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Between September 1997 and March 2006, 43,423 environmental impact assessment (EIA) applications were submitted in South Africa. This exceptionally high number reflects a particular weakness in the ability of the EIA system to effectively screen EIA applications. The 2006 EIA Regulations intended to reduce the number of EIA applications by 20%. This paper presents a comparative analysis of screening performance before and following the 2006 EIA Regulations in order to determine the improvement of screening effectiveness (and hence the EIA process) since the interventions introduced in the 2006 EIA Regulations. Changes in the number of EIA applications as well as the types of activities requiring EIA are analysed. The results show that the average number of EIA applications submitted per month reduced by 27% nationally from 1997 to 2006. Although the 20% reduction target has been achieved, the number of EIA applications remains high compared with international trends and considered against the available administrative capacity. Analysis of the Free State Province also shows that, for both periods, very similar types of activities triggered the majority of EIA applications, with transformation of land, construction of masts and storage of fuel being the most common. To improve EIA screening, it is recommended that the reduction target be reconsidered and that additional screening methods such as environmental management frameworks and norms and standards be implemented.