Title page for ETD etd-07122011-104401


Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Sampson, Ian Roy
Email sampson@wylie.co.za
URN etd-07122011-104401
Document Title Incorrect applicaton and interpretation of socio-economic factors in environmental impact assessments in South African Law
Degree LLM
Department Human Rights
Supervisor
Advisor Name Title
Prof M Hansungule Supervisor
Keywords
  • South African Law
  • socio-economic factors
  • environmental impact assessments
Date 2011-04-11
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Environmental Impact Assessments ("EIA") have been regulated for the last 12 years in South Africa, initially through the Environment Conservation Act 1989, and since 2006 through the National Environmental Management Act 1998 ("NEMA"). The former applied the standard of "substantial detrimental effect" to the environment in determining whether an authorisation should be granted. NEMA requires the authority to take into account environmental management principles. These principles inter alia require that development must be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. This is also known as sustainable development ("SD").

Administrative officials tasked with considering EIAs have been given legislative direction with respect to the environmental issues which need to be assessed. They have been given no direction on how to assess socioeconomic issues. Notwithstanding this there have been an increasing number of decisions based on socio-economic factors, notwithstanding that the environmental impacts have been determined to be acceptable.

In Fuel Retailers Association of South Africa v Director-General: Environmental Management, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga Province and Others the Constitutional court held that SD must be applied by environmental authorities when they consider applications for EIA authorisation. However a careful analysis of NEMA and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, highlight that our administrators and courts have adopted a one dimensional and ultimately inaccurate interpretation of the application of SD. This is prejudicing the fulfilment of the objective of EIA, namely the determination of the acceptability of a project's environmental impacts.

Whilst SD does have a role to play in the EIA process it is more defined, and does not take the central role the Constitutional Court has indicated. The aim of is to determine whether there are adverse impacts associated with a project. If there are, then ordinarily authorisation should be refused. However the authorities are enjoined to go a step further. They must determine whether the identified adverse impacts can be satisfactorily mitigated, and whether any positive socio-economic factors would accrue Page (iii) should the project be authorised. If both are answered in the affirmative, then a positive decision is appropriate. This is the balance which NEMA calls for, and this is the correct application of SD in an EIA.

The broader application of SD espoused by the Constitutional Court is achieved not through the environmental authorities in the EIA process alone, but through the constitutional principle of cooperative governance. All authorities with an interest in a particular project must apply the principle of SD within the scope of their administrative functions. The environmental authorities consider the environmental impacts, the planning authorities consider the socio-economic impacts, the agricultural authorities determine the project's impacts on agricultural land, etc. The outcome of their individual decisions can then collectively be assessed to determine whether a project is sustainable or not.

There are various measures which can be employed to address the interpretational deficiency which has now manifested. These include improving cooperative governance principles and practices in decisionmaking; undertaking strategic environmental assessments; and a dedicated Sustainable Development Act.

2010, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Sampson, IR 2010, Incorrect applicaton and interpretation of socio-economic factors in environmental impact assessments in South African Law, LLM dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07122011-104401/ >

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