environmental sciences

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Various Aspects Of Environmental Impact Assessment Environmental Sciences Essay

In this essay various aspects of and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be introduced and discussed. 5 Scenarios of environmental impacts will be introduced, explained and its impacts will be assessed.

EIA’s is of high importance as it ensures that the environment is not destroyed so that live on earth will not cease to exist. It is needed that actions are taken towards the entities that harms or destroys the environment.

Our environment is constantly changing at a linear trend. Natural resources such as natural gas and oil will be in short supply in approximately 50 years. Global warming is affecting various forms of live on earth. Climates are changing as it is getting warmer and the sea levels are rising. We are becoming more aware of the environment and the need to take care of Mother Earth. Our actions today determine the future of tomorrow’s generation.

Meaning of the Environment

For the purposes of an EIA the environment may perhaps be described as the biosphere, hemisphere and atmosphere. This includes all of the living and non-living things that exists on earth or part thereof. This is all the components that can be affected by pollution, which includes human beings, florae, faunae, air, soil and geology, water resources and bodies, landscapes and ecosystems. Cultural heritage can also be included as part of the environment.

Environment can denote different things Generic environments types can be described as wetlands or floodplains (Glasson, J, 2005). Specific environmental location can be described as a national park or trail. The environmental habitat types can be described as rare and endangered species. The effect types of the environment are the climate change, biodiversity and environmental injustice. The extraterritorial environments are a location such as Antarctica. The effects on the environment are for example transboundary air pollution. When the site for a project is allotted the site encloses an environment.

Definition of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

An EIA describes a procedure by which information is obtained regarding the effects project, policies, legislative proposals and operational procedures have on the environment (Glasson, J, et al, 2005). The activities are assessed and if their impact is too severe they may be brought to a halt or their severity may be mitigated. The information is obtained and interpreted by the developer, environmental assessment practitioner and other sources and presented in the form of a report. The outcomes of the authorities’ judgment will determine if the project may continue. The outcomes of the authorities decision needs to be interpreted and communicated to the relevant parties.

Four main activities that occurs during an EIA

There are four main activities that occur during an EIA. These activities include:



Determining of alternative sites and or procedures to complete the project.

Writing of the report.


Definition of screening

Screening is done before an EIA is conducted. It determines whether it is needed to conduct a full scale EIA, a basic EIA or none. Not all projects require an EIA because their impact may be small or insignificant. When the impacts of a project are known to be significant or there is an uncertainty about the projects impacts an EIA must be done. These decisions are made during screening.

Procedures during screening

It is needed to take a brief evaluation of the impacts of the project to determine whether an EIA is required or not. It is not an in depth study only an evaluation. The legislation lists the requirements that need to be fulfilled when an EIA must be conducted.

In Most parts of the world a screening report is required before an EIA is undertaken. In South Africa two documents should be completed instead of a screening report.

The first document is a Notice of intent to submit an application. This document notifies the relevant authorities about the intended submission and provides relevant information about the development (Aucamp, PJ, 2009).

The second document required for screening is, An application for authorization. In this document there is certain information that is needed. The site must be identified and all relevant background about the site must be included. The location of the site must be stated and any alternative sites that may be used. All the method on how the EIA will be conducted must be included. In must be stated if a full or basic EIA will be conducted. An affidavit should be included which is signed by both the client and the environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) (Aucamp, PJ, 2009).


Scoping and the activities occurring during scoping

Definition of Scoping

After it is decided that an EIA is needed during the screening proses scoping is done. Scoping is done for small or large projects. During scoping the main environmental impacts of the project under consideration is determined and a decision is made on how deep the analysis should be done. The impact of the project is defined and the influence it will have on the environment at that stage. Key issues are identified and the minor issues are eliminated that must be addressed in the EIA (Glasson, J et al, 2005).

Required Activities occurring during scoping

During scoping the impacts of the project on the environment is disseminated to all the local effected communities and other relevant stakeholders. The stakeholders are then required to register as stakeholders and add their names to the stakeholders list. Consultations are then held with representatives of the community to focus the EIA on issues that is of concern to the local community. Debates are held to raise all the issues regarding the impacts and any alternatives to the proposal is indicated. All the specifications and regulations of the EIA that needs to be conducted must be decided upon. Any alternatives to the problem must be broadly discussed and all the pros and cons must be listed of each. A scoping report must be written and clearly state all the above mentioned.

The scoping report’s content is prescribed in the South African National Environmental Management Act, 2006. This report must include all the necessary information of the EAP. It must contain a detailed description of the site and the proposed activities that will take place. There must be a description of the environment that will be affected. All the legislations that were considered for the report must be included. Methodologies that will be adopted and specialist studies that will be undertaken must be included in the report. Any information on the stakeholders’ involvement and how they were informed of the affects should be clearly stated. All the information the authorities may enquire about should be included (Aucamp, PJ, 2009).

Stakeholders involvement and the importance thereof

In ones was said that 'The man who pays the piper calls the tune'. Those days of calling up an engineer and having the project done no matter what are no longer applicable. There are more people involved and their viewpoints are relevant to the project. Today these people are called the stakeholders of a project.

A person can only participate as a stakeholder if he/she is registered as one and his /her name appears on the stakeholders list. The names that appear on the list are the only ones that may participate in the debates, or provide reasons to stop construction of the project. It can take only one stakeholder’s viewpoint to bring a project of billons to a halt.

The stakeholders are probably the most important part in a project. They are the ones affected by the project and lives in the area after the project is completed. All the impacts caused due to the project should be disseminated to all the stakeholders so they can raise their opinions and thoughts. They can sometimes bring forward information that the EAP missed. They can inform the EAP about issues that occurred in the past and that can influence the project.

Thus in a nutshell, the role stakeholders play in a project is crucial. Their opinions matter and they are important and contractors should know the important role the stakeholders play in the project. (Alexander, I, April 2003).

Environmental assessment and the methods thereof

Doing an EIA is part of the project. It identifies the positive and negative effects the project might engender. It can be determined if the impacts can be mitigated or the extent of the impacts can be determined. It can be advised whether the project should be impended or not.

Method of an EIA

Screening should be considers as one of the first steps when an EIA is considered. During screening the necessity of the EIA is determined. The decision on whether an EIA should be conducted is listed in the listing activities.

Scoping is done to identify and determine the impacts that need to be addressed in the EIA. During scoping the stakeholders are addressed and informed about the impacts of the project.

Impacts assessment is done to determine the significance of the impacts on the environment and the biodiversity. Both the positive and negative impacts are assessed and must be mentioned.

Mitigation and rehabilitation methods are determined to reduce the negative effects the projects impacts has on the environment.

Alternative methods are determined that could be used if the area is not suited for construction.

An EIA Report containing all the above mentioned is written.

Reviewing of the EIA report is done to ensure that all the necessary information and documentation is included.

Decision is made by the governmental department of agriculture rural development (GDAR), of whether the project may continue and if one of the alternatives should be chosen. A record of decisions (ROD) will accompany the document when it is returned.

The project is completed and all mitigation and rehabilitation mentioned in the EIA is completed.

Most important environmental legislations controlling the undertaking of an EIA in South Africa

When an EIA is needed there are legislations this EIA must adhere to. These include environmental laws which are compulsory in South Africa. It provides a body of rules and guidelines that controls human behaviour. An EIA must be set up according to these laws.

Structure of South African Law

Multinational Environmental Agreements (MEA). This includes:

The international law that is controlled by the US.

Treatise that states which species are endangered and needs to be protected. Thus if an endangered species are found on a site there must be referred to the treaties.

Protocols – Kyoto – which refers to carbon dioxide pollution.

Conventions – Montreal Conventions- provides the rules for protecting the troposphere.

Constitutions – Rights as a South African Citizen. This includes:

In the Rights of South Africa- Environmental Section, it states that:

Section 24

“Everyone has the right –

a) to an environment that’s not harmful to their health or wellbeing; and

b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that –

(i) Prevent pollution and ecological degradation;

(ii) Promote conservation; and

(iii) Secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development (The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning-2009).”

Section 32

“Everyone has the right of access to –

(a) any information held by the state; and

(b) any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.

(2) National legislation must be enacted to give effect to this right, and may provide for reasonable measures to alleviate the administrative and financial burden on the state (The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning-2009).”

Statuary law. This is the states written law that is signed by the minister, president or the government cosset.

General statuary law:

ECA – Environmental Conservation Act No 73 at 1989 replaced

NEMA – National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998

- Chapter 5 is very important and was amended in 2008

Specific Statuary laws:

Air – Refer to NEMA : Air quality Act No 39 of 2004

Water – Refer to the National Water Act No 36 of 1998

Soil – refer to the Conservation of Agriculture Recourses Act No 43 of 1983

Biodiversity – Refer to NEMA : Protected Areas Act 2003

- Refer to NEMA: Environmental Biodiversity Act No 25 of 1999

e) Heritage – Refer to National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999

Civil Law

This is the unwritten law. There are no legal procedures that follow it. It is based on the precedent (the lady that types the discussion in a court case).

It is between individuals or individuals / CO. / Gaut.

Regulations (Reg), Bylaws. Provides guidelines to solving the problem.

Old Regulations

Environmental – NEMA – chapter 5

Reg R385 Regulations in terms of chapter 5 of the NEMA Act 1998 (2006)

Reg R386 (repealed 2010) – List of activities and competent authorities identified in terms of section 24 end 24D of NEMA (2006)

Reg R387 (repealed 2010) – List of activities and competent authorities identified in terms of section 24 end 24D of NEMA (2006)

New Regulations

NEMA and Amendments to NEMA

Reg R544 (18 July 2010 - Valid in August 2010) Listing notice 1 of Activities and Competent authorities identified in terms of Section 24 and 24 D

Reg R545 (18 July 2010 - Valid in August 2010) Listing notice 2 of Activities and Competent authorities identified in terms of Section 24 and 24 D

Reg R546 (18 July 2010 - Valid in August 2010) Listing notice 3 of Activities and Competent authorities identified in terms of Section 24 and 24 D

Reg R547 NEMA and Environmental Management Framework (EMF) regulations

(Meeuwis, J, 2010; Personal Communication)

The governmental department of agriculture rural development (G-DARD) will confirm if the EIA adhere to all of the needed specifications as listed in the legislations that is listed above. A record of decision (ROD) will accompany the decision made by GDAR.

When an EIA should be undertaken in South Africa

In the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) it is stated that before a project is undertaken, an EIA should be obtained and authorized (by GDAR) and a record of decisions must be provided. Therefore an EIA should be undertaken prior to the initiation of any project when it is known that there are significant impacts, or if uncertainties exist about the impacts. Listing notice 3 indicates that an EIA should be conducted when a project is undertaken in a sensitive or protected geological area.

EIA’s should be conducted according to the EIA regulations promulgated in July 2006. The previous regulations presented interpolation problems regarding the changing legal regime relating to mining and the environment. As a result the new laws stated in NEMA must be included in the EIA. These laws include the laws such as the Waste Management Act or Costal Management Act. Several changes were made to the procedural requirements for an EIA. Some of the listed activities were removed and others levels have changed. Some definitions were clarified so any uncertainties could be mitigated.

Some of the listing activities were repealed to clarify all the listed activities. Commencing August 2010 all EIA’s conducted must be done according to the amendments made to NEMA and the Regulations. EIA’s or projects started before August 2010 will still act in accordance with NEMA (2006).

Difference between Basic and Full Scale EIA in South Africa

There are two different types of EIA’s in South Africa, a basic EIA and a full scale EIA. The type of EIA that is required will be determined by the magnitude of the impacts on the environment.

Basic EIA

A basic assessment (basic EIA) should be conducted as listed in Listing Notice 1. A Basic assessment (basic EIA) is done for most projects since the environmental impacts minute or non-existent. A basic EIA report is a standard report that may be required by GDARD in terms of the EIA regulations of 2006, or 2010 as of August 2010.

Procedures for streamline application

Public participation where stakeholders are address.

A basic assessment report is written after the research is conducted.

The application is submitted containing the application form and the assessment report.

The application is checked.

After 14 days acknowledgement of receipt of application is done.

After 30 days a Response is received. Additional information, specialist studies or alternative sites may be requested. Or a rejection may be received. An EIA & Scoping may be required.

The authorisation is granted or refused.

After 10 days a notification of the decision is received.

The I & AP’s are notified of the decision.

The procedures are shown in the diagram (Figure 1). The competent authorities must strive to adhere to the timeframes.

Additional information

EIA & Scoping

Figure : Procedures for a Basic EIA

Full Scale EIA

A full assessment (full scale EIA) should be conducted as stated in Listing Notice 2. Few projects require a full scale EIA since these projects are considered to have significant adverse impacts on the; environment, endangered species, fragile or valued ecosystems (such as wetlands), biological diversity, air and water quality or the health, lifestyle or livelihood of the local community.

Procedures for streamline application

Submission of application containing application forms and the landowners consent.

Application is checked.

After 14 days acknowledgement of receipt of application is done.

Scoping is done. Public participation including the organisations of the state is addressed. Scoping report is written and any public comments are added.

Scoping report is submitted.

After 30 days a response will be received. Amendments may be required, or it may be rejected due to insufficient information or failure to follow guidelines. For both cases scoping needs to be redone. It can be accepted and the procedures may continue.

An EIA is prepared and EMP is drafted.

After 60 day a response will be received. The EIA may be rejected or amendments required then the EIA needs to be redone. The EIA may be accepted or specialist reviews required them the procedures may continue.

After 45 days a decision will be made.

After 10 days the applicant will be notified about the decision.

The I & AP’s are notified of the decision.

The diagram illustrates the procedures that are followed to conduct a Full Scale EIA (Figure 2). The competent authorities must strive to adhere to the timeframes.





Figure : Procedures for a Full Scale EIA

5 Photos of environmental impacts.

Figure : Entrance deepening of Durban Harbour

Figure : Entrance widening of Durban Harbour

Source: www.Transnet .co.za

Description: The side embankments are blasted away by means of dynamite. The seafloor is excavated by means of a ship with a scoop attached.

The Project: The widening and deepening of Durban harbour entrance. The project was for Transnet and Murray and Roberts did the construction work (Steenkamp, S, 2010)

Impacts: When the seabed is excavated, see life is affected because their natural habitat is destroyed. The water becomes cloudy due to the sand that is in the water thus sea life struggle to see. When the project was in progress old military equipment were found on the ocean floor. The sand that was removed was pumped onto the beaches children picked up shiny objects. These objects were live rounds. Thus the lives of the community were in danger.

How the impacts can be mitigated or rehabilitated: The material that was blasted away can be re used as aggregate. The sand that is excavated from the sea floor can be used to fill up the beaches that washed away. This can be done by filling geobags and placing them on the beaches as an embankment. The live rounds can be confiscated and the military equipment can be recovered if possible at a later stadium.

Figure : Housing development

Source: Google Images - Construction

Description: A piece of land is excavated by earth moving equipment to make place for a housing development. The trees and grass and other florae were removed. Soil was removed to level the surface.

The Project: The project involves the construction of a housing development. It was needed to first clear the area of all the plant life.

Impacts: Florae that is needed for a healthy environment is removed. When trees and other florae are removed they do not provide oxygen anymore. The grass is removed that prevents erosion. A piece of undeveloped land was used thus destroying more of the ecosystem. Animals have a smaller space to live in because the development is removing their natural habitat.

How the impacts can be mitigated or rehabilitated: Some of the plants that are removed may be taken to a location, were erosion is occurring, and replanted to maintain their benefits to the environment. When construction is completed some of the plans may be rehabilitated back into their original environment.

Figure : Construction of road in Game Reserve

Source: Google Images-road construction

Description: A path through the bush is cleared for the construction of a road. Trees and grass is removed. Florae that provide food and shelter for the animals are removed.

The Project: The project involves the construction of a road in a game reserve to create roads that lead to the campsites.

Impacts: As it is a game reserve animals can move freely. Thus by the construction of the road it increases the chances of the animals to be hit by a moving vehicle. Because the road will only be a sand road it increases the possibilities of erosion. With the construction of roads a higher noise levels are induced. This creates a higher stress level in the animals.

How the impacts can be mitigated or rehabilitated:

The erosion may be limited by paving the roads. To ensure that the animals are not harmed by speeding vehicles a speeding limit can be induced. The plants that were removed can be replanted on another location on the reserve to ensure that the plant life is not lost.

Figure : Old de Beers mining site in Kimberley

Figure : Old Mining Site in Kimberley

Source: www.kimberleysadiamonds.com

Description: Mining for diamonds in Kimberley. Great amounts of water are stored in ponds.

The Project: The project involves the re-mining of the old dumps of the closed Kimberley mines such The Big Hole, De Beers and Wesselton Mines (www.kimberleysadiamonds.com/aboutus).

Impacts: Great amounts of water are used for the purpose mining. Thus less drinking water is available. Drinking water that is available is contaminated by the toxic waste that is poured into the water. All of the needed minerals are removed from the soil. A great amount of earth is excavated and is exposed to erosion. Habitats are destroyed when space is created for the mine dumps and the sites were the diamonds are mined.

How the impacts can be mitigated or rehabilitated:

After mining the processed solids can be deposited back into the closed De Beers mine pit. Thus rehabilitation is assured and the environmental impacts of the past are reversed. Water can be re-used by installing pumping systems and a filtering system. After the mining project is completed the area can be rehabilitated and fauna and flora can be reintroduced to the environment.

Figure : De Hoop dam Construction in Limpopo

Source: Engineering News

Description: Great amounts of earth are removed to create a hole for the placement of the dam. The dam is constructed out of concrete thus the materials may be harmful to the environment.

The Project: The project involves the construction of the De Hoop dam in the Limpopo province. The project was undertaken to boost Limpopo’s economics and social development. The project also includes the installation of a pumping station that will provide water to the nearby towns (Prinsloo, L, 2008).

Impacts: An artificial dam is constructed thus the existing environment is destroyed. The runoff water Steelpoort River will be collected in the dam thus water will not be available downstream. The surrounding area was demolished.

How the impacts can be mitigated or rehabilitated: In the area that surrounds the dam trees and other flora can be planted. This will provide shade so the water will stay cooler and erosion will be impeded.


Development is needed in the times we are living in but it should be done with careful consideration of the impacts thereof. There should be a healthy balance between developed and undeveloped land.

It is our duty to protect and rehabilitate what’s left of our environment. It can be accomplished by doing proper EIA’s. If an EIA is done properly it can prevent projects that are harmful to the environment to occur. It can also limit the impacts of projects that do occur. Thus a piece of Mother Earths’ beauty will be seen by generations to come. An EIA should be clear and state all the necessary information. If an EAI is done incorrectly or relevant information is left out it will slow down the project and thus influence the schedule and budget.

We all want our environment, our save haven to be protected and in a virtuous condition. We want a place to escape to and unwind our tired minds. We want to hear the birds and smell the roses given to us by a loved one. If the entire natural environment is destroyed by construction or pollution, where can we go to?

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