The report produced by The Green Connection highlights the problems experienced by marginalised communities when engaging with environmental impact and assessment management. This is principally through the public participation processes required for various tools used in assessment and management.
Lack of environmental awareness and knowledge:
• People living in these communities are focused on survival, with little resources to spend on participation/activism. They often default to favouring any development that might result in jobs.
• EAPs tend to exploit the tension between community members concerned about the environment and those seeking jobs.
• People distrust government, which is seen as promoting development without listening to community concerns.
• NGOs and CBOs were more trusted sources of information; the normal constraints on CBOs and NGOs in this instance are then more poignant.
• Schools often lack environmental programmes. [This is significant as Stats SA shows that 44% of the population of African/Black people are under 19 years of age. For other groups the percentages are 36.3% Coloured, 30.7% Indian/Asian and 24.9% White].
Lack of funds and resources to participate:
o Community members lack spare time to attend meetings and read documents
o Transport issues inhibit public participation
o The customs in public participation meetings are alienating - including insufficient time to hear all points of view; requiring written comment. There is no mechanism for incorporate protests that take the form of marches, petitions, etc.
o [EAPs/proponents do not allow sufficient funds to establish if people with disabilities will be affected, and to engage with them appropriately]
Lack of awareness of environmental rights:
• Many community members are unaware of their environmental rights, or at least confused by amendments to the EIA regulations, the process or the Acts.
• Interventions tend to be reactive and focused on a proposal rather than proactive capacity building
• EAPs do not sufficiently explain to communities their right
• Communities have to rely on the EAP’s interpretation of the development and its impact; there is no counter-argument for them to gain a balanced understanding.
• Communities do not sufficiently understand that an EAP is required to be objective, and that there is recourse for them if this is not the case. EAPs indicate that developers will not pay for the community to be empowered.
Technical language: Language is a barrier to effective participation -
o The language used in most meetings and reports is English with no translation, and also have a high technical content.
o Relevant information is not provided in a transparent manner which would foster participation
o “Open days,” during which community members can approach EAPs for information, are seen as propaganda tools.
Decision making, monitoring, and compliance: Community members mistrust the decision making process
o They assume conditions of approval would mitigate any potential negative impacts, therefore protecting the community from harm
o There is no engagement to help them understand the implications of the authorisation
o Their issues fail to be addressed
o Conditions for development are not feasible and the authorization is almost becomes tacit agreement to break the law e.g. pollution levels
o Community members do not have the skills or the resources to monitor the development; where authorities fail in this role, the burden of both the impact and the development fall on the community.