Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs)

What do I need to know?
 
What does it entail?
The process
Tips and best practice
Key contacts
Mandating legislation
Links to guidelines and forms
Key definitions
Who is responsible for EIAs from a Government perspective?

Although all three spheres of government are responsible for the implementation of NEMA, certain functions have been delegated to a specific sphere.  EIA’s are mandated by the national Department of Environmental Affairs and are, with certain exceptions, administered in the Western Cape by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP).  EIA applications are brought with DEA&DP in the Western Cape.   

According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, each person has the right to a healthy natural environment and the right to have the environment protected.  A such, protection of the natural environment is regulated in order to conserve it for future generations and protect it from the harms of modern day living.  Agricultural activities might trigger the need to perform an Environmental Impact Assessment and obtain approval to conduct these activities.  

But you may want to ask - how can this benefit me?

 

Many local and international markets require compliance and environmental audits before they will accept farm produce. By complying with the requirements of NEMA, a landowner will in many cases improve, or at least not degrade, the environmental attributes of the property including biodiversity thus improving the outcomes of any required audits.

 
 
Mandating legislation

Environment Conservation Act, 1989 (Act 73 of 1989)

National Environmental Management Act, Act 107 of 1998 (NEMA)

National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, Act 57 of 2003 (NEM:PA)

National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, Act 10 of 2004; (NEM:BA)

National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, Act 39 of 2004; (NEM:AQA)

National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, Act 24 of 2008 (NEM:ICMA)

National Environmental Management: Waste Act, Act 59 of 2008 (NEM:WA)

Key definitions to understand in the context of EIAs
Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP)
Environmental Authorisation (EA)

For an application for environmental authorisation in terms of NEMA the proponent/applicant must appoint an EAP at own cost to manage the application.  An EAP must be independent and must have no business, financial, personal or other interest in the activity or application.  There must be no circumstances that may compromise the objectivity of the E.

The “licence” to conduct a certain activity.  If an EA is issued, the applicant is responsible for complying with all conditions associated with the EA. 

Understanding the approvals needed

Different agricultural activities would trigger different approvals needed in terms of environmental legislation.  The most common approvals within an agricultural context are the following:

  • NEMA -Environmental Authorisation (EA)

  • NEM:WA - waste management license

  • NEM:AQA - atmospheric emissions license

The approval process for the waste licence and emissions licence are similar to that of NEMA.  With certain exceptions, these applications are all brought with DEA&DP.

The process that needs to be followed depends on the type of activity undertaken – there is a Basic Assessment Report or a full Scoping and Environmental Impact Report required under certain circumstances.  The lists of activities under NEMA could be found here and the lists of activities under NEM:WA could be found here.

In terms of NEM:AQA, installations such incinerators and boilers may also require licenses and hence Activity 6 of Listing Notice 2 of NEMA will apply. In addition, Activity 28 of Listing Notice 2 relates to the commencing of activities that require an air emissions licence.  

 

In most cases it is prudent to obtain the inputs from DEA&DP or an environmental consultant to make sure that the correct process is followed.  

 

the process

Basic EIA Process

Applicant / EAP Actions

The key:

Department Actions

Appellant 

Actions

Statutory timeframes

1 - Basic Assessment Phase

Activities NEMA Listing Notice 1 & 3

NEM:WA Category A

Conduct specialist investigations; Basic Assessment Report; Conduct initial public participation

Submit application form to competent authority

10 days

Acknowledgement of receipt of application

Conduct public participation

30 days for comment on BAR

Submit final Basic Assessment Report to Competent Authority

10 days

1 - Decision-making / Appeal Phase

Acknowledgement of FBAR

97 days

Authority must issue decision within 107 days from Receipt of BAR

Grant / refuse EA in full or part

BAR must submit 90 days from date of receipt of application or 140 days if significant changes made

5 days

Notify applicant of decision

14 days

Applicant to notify I&APs of decision

20 days

Appeal

Scoping and EIR process
1 - Scoping Phase
The key:

Applicant / EAP Actions

Department Actions

Appellant 

Actions

Statutory timeframes

Activities NEMA Listing Notice 2

NEM:WA Category B

NEM:AQA

Conduct specialist investigations; Draft scoping report (SR); Conduct initial public participation

Submit application form to competent authority

2 - Environmental Impact Phase

Prepare Environmental Impact Report (EIR); Conduct specialist investigations; Conduct public participation

Appeal

30 days for comment on ER

Submit EIR 106 days from acceptance of SR or 156 days if significant changes made

Submit Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to competent authority

10 days

3 - Decision making / Appeal Phase

Conduct public participation

30 days for comment on SR

10 days

Acknowledgement of EIR

97 days

Acknowledgemen of receipt of application

Authority must issue decision within 107 days from receipt of EIR

Submit final SR and Plan of Study for Environmental Impact Report to Competent Authority

Submit SR 44 days from receipt of application

Grant EA in full or part

Refuse EA in full or part

10 days

Acknowledgement / acceptance of SR

33 days

Refuse Environmental Authorisation

Accept SR and Plan of Study

Authority must issue decision within 43 days from receipt of SR

5 days

Notify applicant of decision

14 days

Applicant to notify I&APs of decision

20 days