The Draft EIA regulations went out for public comment some time ago (back in 2016). Several months later, there has finally been some movement. According to the National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the amendments will be gazetted on 31 March 2017. While it is great that the amendments are finally happening, it brings the good, the bad and scary.
The National Department of Environmental Affairs held a seminar in Pietermaritzburg last week on these imminent amendments. The presentations were high-level and only provided examples of the changes and not all the details. There are many minor and a few major changes, including:
- Listing Notices: LN1 – changes to the competent authority allowing for certain mining-related activities to remain with the DEA; LN 2- Removal of certain activities (e.g. Activity 14, which is repetitive); and LN3 – each province will now have its own list of activities;
- A definition of agriculture under NEMA will be provided;
- Specific regulations to change including, Sections 24D, 23 (3), 26, and 37;
- Additional regulations, including a new section – 54A – on transitional arrangements;
- Renewable energy projects within the DEA’s Renewable Energy Development Zones will have reduced competent authority timeframes for EIA processes.
- Auditing – if a project authorised under the Environmental Conservation Act (73 of 1989) is not listed under the 2014 regulations, then the project may no longer require auditing.
There were a number of debates sparked by the presentations. One of the key ones being that Environmental Assessment Practitioners need a regulatory body to raise the standard of EIAs being submitted, and improve the profession as a whole. The DEA’s response was that although the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa (EAPASA) applied to be the regulatory body in 2016, the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNSP) has voiced their interest in doing the same. As the regulations allow for more than one body to regulate the profession, the DEA is currently considering if it is a good idea to have two bodies instead of one. And so, yet again, we wait for a decision.
In “the way forward”, the DEA stated that all queries should be directed to email@example.com, as the representatives were not in a position to answer all the questions, and many more were sure to come. They would, however, take the queries and issues raised at the meeting back to Pretoria for consideration. They indicated that this may become a more regular event, which I think would be good for all practitioners and departments involved.
Department of Environmental Affairs: www.environment.gov.za
Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa: eapasa.org
South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions: www.sacnasp.org.za