National Environmental Screening Tool Launch

Posted on Posted in envital

The National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is launching a new online GIS-based tool for screening sites for potential biodiversity and conservation sensitivities and EIA triggers. This tool brings together the plethora of data collected by organisations and individuals in South Africa into one system.

The DEA, in conjunction with private and public organisations, has sourced over 100 environmental data sets including:

  • South African Protected Areas Database (SAPAD)
  • South African Conservation Areas Database (SACAD)
  • Renewable Energy
  • Landcover Data
  • REDZs and Associated Transmission Corridors Data

The environmental data has been overlain with the national land parcels and street maps, which makes it easy to identify a site and establish its boundaries and proximity to areas of environmental sensitivity.

The tool has several features including:

  • Identifying potential sensitivities and project-specific information (e.g. bat studies for wind turbines)
  • Easy to search land parcels by farm, erf, uploading shp files or coordinates, and mapping
  • Grouping of data or layers by theme
  • Report generation that provides a comprehensive summary of screening results
  • Outputs to download of shp files, GIS files and the report
  • Users can be autonomous or registered (allowing project information to be saved and revisited)

The most important feature is the outputs. No other tool can provide a detailed report on all available databases, and the GIS files of the site and layers to download. The report contains maps, tables and screening results, potential environmental sensitivities, as well as a list of specialist studies and the specialists’ terms of reference.

The tool, however, is only meant to provide guidance to practitioners and proponents, and will not be a replacement for the listed activities (2014, as amended) or site work for verification. The DEA anticipates that this tool will be used at pre-application meetings to enable practitioners, proponents and authorities to gain a better understanding of the potential environmental sensitivities and legal triggers, and as a base for discussions on specialist studies.

The DEA anticipates that the tool will go live inApril 2018; however, a “Live User Trial” will be held in the first week of December 2017. This will enable any issues to be worked out before the platform formally goes live.

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