Too much focus on authorisation: The EIA process is focused on the beginning stages of a project, when uncertainty about how the project will turn out is greatest. After the activity is authorised, there is no way to check is the basis of the authorisation was valid or what to do if the impact in the environment is different from the EIA’s predictions. No learning takes place, and information is not updated.
EIA has become too bureaucratic: The EIA has become about ticking boxes rather than quality assessment. The effect of the administrative burden is to tie up authority resources that could be better utilised in compliance and enforcement functions. While the entire impact management cycle (from planning through construction to monitoring and compliance enforcement) is perceived to be more about administration than environmental management, the process loses credibility.
Lack of verification and monitoring: A project’s actual environmental impacts often do not match up to its estimated impacts in the EIA, and there is no way to address the impacts that have turned out differently from the EIA’s predictions. After an activity has been authorised, there is little monitoring to make sure the activity complies with the conditions in the authorisation.
Environmental monitoring committees (EMCs) are ineffective, poorly attended, inadequately prepared for, and may exclude I&APs.
Slow enforcement: Even where permit or authorisation violations are reported, enforcement is slow and violations often go unpunished. There is no organized method for responding to violations and beginning enforcement actions.
Lack of coordination among authorities: There is no effective method of referring environmental violations to other relevant government departments (for example, referring contaminated water problem to Department of Water Affairs instead of the DEA).
Ineffective public participation: Public participation is seen to be merely token after a project has been authorised, even though sometimes there were more opportunities for public input after authorisation than during the EIA.
Vague EMPs: Environmental management plans/programmes (EMPs) do not have clear performance criteria, making it hard to measure violations. It is also unclear how to implement an
Vague information in general: The environmental status of activities is reported vaguely, making it difficult for civil society and the public to know if an activity is violating a law or whether it is being adequately monitored.
Lack of clear targets and baselines: There are no uniform indicators that can measure compliance across different activities consistently.
Immunity from prosecution: Government and state-owned businesses are exempt from prosecution for environmental violations.
Mining outside of DEA’s control: Mining is regulated by the Department of Minerals, which has an interest in promoting mining. There is also disagreement over whether certain activities associated with mining need to comply with just the mineral law or with both the mineral law (MPRDA) and the general environmental law (NEMA).
Lack of capacity: Currently there are not enough resources and expertise to effectively monitor all activities. Improving capacity requires both adequate numbers of personnel and creating the skills and competence needed to source information, assess and interpret compliance monitoring information, and decide on and pursue the necessary enforcement actions.
Local authority’s role underestimated: Not only is the local authority responsible for the enforcement of some
Poor quality authorisations: Authorisations themselves are sometimes vague and contradictory, making it difficult to know how to comply.
* Angela Andrews of the Legal Resource Centre assisted in compiling this summary of the Specialist Report