At the “Ten Years of EIA in South Africa Conference” (2008) it was agreed that an Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Strategy (EIAMS) should be formulated for SA. The strategy should facilitate a participatory process that, in the context of the objectives of integrated environmental management contained in Section 23 of NEMA and the principles of sustainable development of Section 2 of NEMA, revises the environmental management scheme in a systematic and rigorous manner. The sub- directorate: Environmental Impact Management Strategy at the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has been tasked with the development and promotion of this comprehensive strategy to manage the environmental impacts of development in South Africa
The DEA therefore conceived a project that has to look at the desired future state for the EIAMS and path the way to achieve it within the mandate provided by Chapter 5 of NEMA and within a strategic policy context. The desired future includes an environmental impact assessment and management system, that consists of voluntary and regulated instruments in the next 5 years, where –
- the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of the current system have been corrected and the efficiencies and effectiveness optimized;
- regulated EIA is used only when it is the most appropriate tool;
- Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) is given effect through a variety of other instruments that would, depending on the nature of activities and/or the receiving environment supplement, compliment or replace EIA;
- EIAM takes place within a strategic context of environmentally informed spatial instruments, sector strategies and policies;
- authorities are sufficiently capacitated with skilled and experienced officials;
- other stakeholders are capacitated and empowered to ensure maximum impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the strategy;
- government regulatory processes have been as far as possible integrated, or at least aligned; and
- all stakeholders are equally committed to make it work: Government, EAPs, developers, community etc.
The project was conceived as a conglomerate of smaller tasks and studies, arranged around specific themes. Within this context, the DEA appointed SSI Engineers & Environmental Consultants to assist the Department with specialist studies in relation to the development of the national EIAMS. This specific specialist report relates to the compilation of a specialist report on EIMS Specialist Report: Subtheme 2 - Knowledge and Information under the Theme: Governance and Administration.
Timely availability of reliable geo-referenced land, climate, plant nutrients, production and water information, integrated with infrastructural- and socio-economic factors, are essential for stakeholders, policy makers and land users to exercise the best choices among options in using these resources to achieve sustainable levels of food production and development in an increasingly complex environment.
The need for and access to spatial information in South Africa for use in decision making and development planning is a topical issue and inevitably leads to discussions on uncoordinated effort, a lack of funding and expertise and the unavailability of good quality, standardised data.