The current regulatory and policy framework relating to IEM involves an investigation of a number of tools, one of which is Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”). EIA has been used as a tool for environmental management for over 30 years, is applied internationally and is a legal requirement in many countries. Project-specific environmental assessment is referred to as the “first generation EIA”.
As a result of limitations in the project-specific approach, impact assessment methodologies evolved, with Strategic Environmental Assessment (“
In recent years, there has been increasing recognition of the need for environmental assessment tools to be adapted so as to become effective in contributing to sustainable development objectives. Thus, Sustainability Assessment (“SA”) has emerged as the “third generation” of environmental assessment.
Since the overarching purpose of the EIA process is to determine, assess and evaluate the consequences (positive and negative) of a proposed development, activity or project, virtually any significant impact on the surroundings within which we live, including impacts on the built environment and socio-economic impacts that affect human health or well-being, must be assessed during the EIA process. As a result, the national or provincial department of Environmental Affairs (whichever is specified in the Listing Notices as the competent authority to decide on a particular application for authorisation to commence a listed activity), will not necessarily be the only decision-making authority involved. The environmental permission will often be only one of a number of permissions that must be obtained before the project can commence. This is because there are a number of pieces of legislation other than NEMA, which regulate activities that may significantly impact on the environment.
These additional pieces of legislation operate under their own structures and procedures. The other governmental structures that may be involved in the EIA process are dealt with in more detail in Section 3 below, firstly by identifying where the permitting powers lie and secondly by identifying what procedures are already in place that appear to encourage co-operative governance and integrated decision-making. In some instances the government departments concerned may be directly involved as decision makers, while in others their role may be solely to comment.[This article is an extract from a report by EnAct International and should be considered as part of a whole]
 Whether the competent authority is the national or provincial department depends on the nature of the activity and also in which Listing Notice it is listed.