Broad-scale Environmental Planning
Similar to the assessment process, environmental planning involves generating and supplying environmental input at the early planning stage to any project or development with the aim of guiding and informing decision-making. The product of this planning exercise is often employed as decision-support tools by the various spheres of government, nature conservation bodies and larger development initiatives.
Typically the planning process involves a broad-scale assessment of the biophysical and anthropogenic environments within a designated study area with the intention of identifying opportunities and constraints for development and land use. By adopting a strategic approach, the process can be used to ultimately decide on the most appropriate land use for a particular parcel of land.
Management principles can then be coupled to the environmental variables with the intention of enhancing environmental opportunities and reducing environmental constraints. The final product is typically a user-friendly plan and / or framework that enables the user to readily and easily access information, cross-reference environmental variables and identify areas suited to a particular type of development or land use.
Basic Assessment Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports
The Basic Assessment Process is required for all proposals that trigger listed activities in terms of Government Notices No. R.544 (Listing Notice 1) and No. R.546 (Listing Notice 3) of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (Regulations) of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998), as amended (NEMA). The process entails a scoping-type investigation into issues and potential impacts. This is achieved by means of a Public Participation Process (PPP), which involves all Interested and Affected Parties (I&AP’s).
Detailed specialist involvement is typically not required, however a fairly in-depth study of the receiving environment is often needed to fully understand the effects of potential impacts associated with the proposed development.
The process is designed to ensure that applications for smaller developments, which have less potential for significant social, economic and biophysical impacts, can be assessed and reviewed in a more concise manner. Any anticipated impacts are typically dealt with by seeking to propose measures to prevent, reduce, mitigate or manage the effects. Ultimately the process enables the competent authority to take an informed decision.
Full Scoping & Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports
A full EIA Process is required for all proposals that trigger listed activities in terms of Government Notice No. R.545 of 18 June 2010 (Listing Notice 2). This process is comprehensive with a detailed assessment that is applied to larger developments that will potentially have a significant impact on the social, economic and biophysical environment.
A comprehensive understanding of the receiving environment often means that detailed specialist input is required to properly assess and quantify the nature of potential impacts associated with a particular development.
With the process broken down into two distinct phases, the scope of public participation and stakeholder involvement is also significantly expanded to ensure that more complex issues and concerns are fully understood and translated into the final Environmental Impact Assessment Report.
As with the Basic Assessment Process, impacts need to be prevented, reduced, mitigated and managed in a manner that is acceptable to the decision-making authority. The process culminates in the issuing of an environmental authorization.
Aquatic Habitat Impact Assessments
We undertake ground-truthing, classification, infield identification, delineation, impact assessment and mapping of aquatic ecosystems. SES conduct Present Ecological State (PES), functional importance assessments and Ecological Importance and Sensitivity (EIS) assessments of aquatic ecosystems. We conduct environmental impact and environmental sensitivity (constraints) assessments on aquatic habitats to determine if they are at risk of being impacted upon by proposed development areas during construction and operational phases of development. We identify direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts that proposed developments will have on aquatic habitats and the significance of these impacts and recommend actions that should be taken to prevent impacts on aquatic habitats. We also determine and map No-Go and buffer zones utilising the buffer zone guidelines for rivers, wetlands and estuaries.
Environmental Management Plans
Environmental Management Plans (EMP’s) are a method of guiding how a particular activity / action should be undertaken / performed such that the activity / action’s negative impacts on the receiving environment are prevented or minimized. EMP’s are typically commissioned during the closing stage of an EIA or Basic Assessment process. EMP’s are therefore a tool, which are typically utilized by contractors, engineers and developers to guide development activities and manage potential negative effects.
There is a clear distinction between EMP’s compiled for the construction phase (CEMP) and the operational phase (OEMP). Both do however contain project-specific information, guidelines and specifications that are easily comprehensible by the individual implementing the EMP. Typically EMP’s specify the level of reporting / auditing that is required, all of which is usually implemented by a designated (properly equipped & qualified) individual.
Such compliance monitoring by an Environmental Control Officer (ECO) is discussed below.
Environmental Management Programme Reports
Mining and prospecting for natural resources (including sand mining) require that a mining right or mining permit be obtained from the competent authority prior to the commencement of the mining activity. This approval process, similar to the EIA process, warrants a degree of assessment in order to determine potential impacts on the environment.
Accordingly, an Environmental Management Programme Report (EMPR) is undertaken to fulfill the requirements of the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act (2002). By presenting an overview of the proposed prospecting or mining technique in the context of the surrounding environment, any potential negative impacts can be highlighted and managed accordingly. As with the EIA process, the intention is to minimize negative impacts and to maximize positive impacts.
Environmental Monitoring, Control & Education
An Environmental Control Officer (ECO) / compliance monitor is typically appointed to implement the conditions of an EMP, and therefore advises appointed contractors, engineer or developer on how a particular activity / action should be undertaken so as to minimize environmental degradation, pollution etc. Typically the ECO will monitor a construction site and liaise with the development team and the relevant authority to ensure a sustainable realization of the conditions of approval.
Accompanying the environmental control work is usually some degree of environmental awareness training or education. Such training / education is crucial to an effective environmental management program. The training is therefore customized to suit both the site and the activity / action being undertaken.
Further environmental control is typically accomplished by means of an Environmental Liaison Committee (ELC), which is a platform for all relevant stakeholders to review the progress of a development and give / receive feedback on compliance, environmental management and issues that arise. Typically the ECO is a member of the ELC and provides feedback to the relevant authorities, construction team, watchdog bodies etc.
Typically the rehabilitation of a site is undertaken after a construction phase or disturbance, at which point the intention is to restore the environment to a state that approximates the original pre-construction condition. Alternatively, the rehabilitation can also take the format of improving the natural state of a parcel of land that may have become degraded by processes such as alien infestation, erosion etc.
Rehabilitation plans typically require detailed assessment in terms of determining historic baseline conditions and thereby formulating site-specific principles that can aid with the restoration of the environment. An important aspect of any rehabilitation plan is to stabilize the landscape feature or landform and reinstate the natural habitat before implementing measures to prevent any future degradation.
Environmental audits are usually employed to verify compliance with the conditions of a particular approval process or management regime, with the intention of determining whether or not the authorization was adhered to or the management plan was properly implemented. Audit reports are, for example, required by the competent authorities administering the approval of EIA’s and EMPR’s. These audits are completed after the construction process is concluded and are a requirement to validate the implementation of a ‘best practice’ approach to the environment by the development team.
Public Participation & Stakeholder Engagement
The intention with any public participation or stakeholder engagement process is to develop an appropriate and suitable communication strategy to inform relevant stakeholders and I&AP’s, disseminate information and invite feedback which can be informative to either a planning, assessment or management process.
An important aspect of any public participation or stakeholder engagement process is the identification of the target audience, who’s input is vital to ensure a comprehensive process. Project specific meeting formats (large formal public meeting vs. smaller informal open day) that suit the audience also ensure that an appropriate platform is set for stakeholders and I&AP’s to comfortably and proactively become involved.
Analyzing stakeholder and I&AP input is necessary to enable the decision-makers to take informed decisions. To facilitate this, a report is produced detailing the process followed, comments recieved and recommended measures to address issues, concerns and impacts.