The importance and efficiency of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs)

Posted on 4 Mar 2021

South Africa is a developing country with a goal of improving economic growth and infrastructure in a sustainable manner. Environmental Impact Assessments are known to be a vital environmental management tool of sustainable development. The EIA process aims to predict and avoid any impacts related to a proposed project before any authorisation is granted to continue with the project and therefore EIAs are important in this regard as it contributes toward the sustainable development goal.


The objective of an EIA is to minimise or if possible, avoid negative environmental impacts rather than mitigate them from the beginning of a project. Efficiency in this process is defined as a process that encourages the lowest costs concerning investment and time on participants complying with the required objectives of the EIA process.


The EIA process fulfils a crucial role in the conservation and protection of our national resources with the growing stress on economic development while allowing much needed and responsible development. It is of vital importance to refine the efficiency of the EIA process to support the development and economic growth, without hindering the quality of the process. In ensure an improvement in development and economic growth, to avoid delays or extra costs incurred in this process.


The National Environmental Management Act, 107 of 1998 (NEMA) is the key environmental governing legislation in South Africa. Chapter 5 of NEMA together with the standardisation of the consideration, management, submission, and decision of the applications for EIAs ensures that the extent of NEMA is incorporated into once process. Chapter 5 of NEMA further attempts to encourage the appropriate use of environmental management tools and supports EIA as the accepted tool to ensure Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) through a controlled environmental authorisation process.


NEMA offers co-operative governance, process alignment including the coordination of activities to address any issues and continual development optimises and improves the overall process required. One recent optimisation with the amendment of the EIA regulations (2006, 2010, 2014 and 2017) provides immediate considerations for undertaking an EIA process. This optimisation was achieved through the online screening tool, providing a means to which proposed activities can be assessed in terms of themes important to NEMA.


Continuing with these types of optimisations the procedural efficiency of the EIA process will ensure the development and growth of the country.