Environmental Impact Assessment as a Policy Tool for Integrating Environmental Concerns in Development

"Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the tool that is most commonly utilised across Africa and in most developing countries for the purpose of integrating environmental concerns in development projects. South Africa’s experience with EIA dates back to the 1970s, but the first legislated EIA requirements came by way of the Environmental Conservation Act of 1989. EIA is now governed by sections 23 and 24 of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) of 1998, and regulations specifying procedures for carrying out and reviewing EIA reports have been promulgated. However, EIA has courted controversy ever since it was adopted in South Africa as a policy and regulatory tool, and recent public debates and negative media coverage of EIA processes suggest that EIA remains a controversial policy tool. The aim of this policy brief is to show that EIA is a well-intentioned policy tool that has some benefits to the environment and society at large, but that its implementation has some challenges which, if not addressed, could make EIA lose its relevance in a developmental state setting. The challenges are identified and recommendations for addressing them are discussed."