Environmental Impact Assessment
An environmental impact assessment is an assessment of the possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the environment, together consisting of the natural, social and economic aspects.
The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision makers consider the ensuing environmental impacts when deciding whether to proceed with a project. The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as "the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.”
It involved a technical evaluation that would lead to objective decision making. EIA was made legislation in South Africa through the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 of 1989). This Act has since been repealed and the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998) GN R 2010 regulates the EIA process.
However, as well as direct effects, developments cause a multitude of indirect effects through consumption of goods and services, production of building materials and machinery, additional land use for activities of various manufacturing and industrial services, mining of resources etc. The indirect effects of developments are often an order of magnitude higher than the direct effects assessed by EIA. Large proposals such as airports or ship yards cause wide ranging national as well as international environmental effects, which should be taken into consideration during the decision-making process.
Environmental Assurance can assist in the following processes:
- Basic Assessments and Environmental Management Programmes;
- Scoping and EIA with the associated documents;
- Specialists studies;
- Public Participation; and
- Social Impact Assessments.