The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) (Act 107 of 1998) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations provides a list of activities requiring Environmental Authorisation. To obtain Environmental Authorisation, an EIA is required. For most people in industry, the EIA process can be overwhelming at first glance but in the series of talks to follow we’ll dissect EIA’s into short and sweet portions to get you informed. We’ll start with some frequently asked questions.

How do I as an Industry know if I need an EIA?

If you plan on doing any construction, or expansion you may or may not require an EIA. The best way to find out for sure would be to contact someone who understands both industry and EIAs – Wilbrink & Associates, being an ideal example.

What does the EIA process entail?

Depending on the activity you propose, you may require either a Basic Assessment Process or a Full EIA Process. The EIA regulations require that an independent person- also known as an EAP or Environmental Assessment Practitioner – undertake the EIA process. So the 1st step, after establishing that an EIA will in fact be required, would be to appoint an EAP to undertake the EIA on your behalf. Thereafter things get a bit more technical and due to space constraints we’ll have to delve into the details of the EIA in our next talk so … to be continued.

How long does the EIA process take?

The timeframe for an EIA is initially determined by the type of assessment process to be undertaken which will be either Basic Assessment or Full EIA. Generally the Basic Assessment is shorter than the Full EIA because in the Basic Assessment the potential impacts to the environment are already identified and the study revolves around these potential “knowns” whereas in the Full EIA, the potential still require identification before the study can progress. Ideally the Basic Assessment Process should take 6 months while the Full EIA a year but it is never that straight-forward and unforeseeable factors creep up affecting the progress of EIAs. These delays vary with each individual project and in our experience, usually arise during the public participation process.

What are a company’s options if an activity commenced without environmental authorisation?

In this case an application for rectification known as a Section 24 G application will have to be made. The process involved is similar to EIA processes accept a fine will be imposed for conducting the activity unlawfully.

Is there any way to fast track the EIA process?

Unfortunately, as much as we would like it, the progress of any EIA is not in our control alone therefore we advise clients to not underestimate their compliance with environmental legislation, and begin the investigation towards a potential EIA at conception of your proposed expansion or construction.

Who is responsible for granting the Environmental Authorisation i.e. who’s the boss?

In the case of a Basic Assessment the Competent Authority (CA) will be your provincial Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) while in the case of a Full EIA; the CA will be the national DEA in Pretoria.

Except for it being a legal requirement what are the benefits of the EIA process?

It might not make sense just yet but the EIA process actually lowers project costs in the long term. The EIA process develops measures to prevent environmental damage and also results in improved planning for future projects and what’s nicer than good PR for your company – which the EIA process fosters.

Where is more information on EIA available?

The information available to one looking for it is endless. Browse the web using search items like “National Environmental Management Act EIA Regulations 2010” or get it straight from the DEA by visiting www.environment.gov.za., clicking on “Legislation”; “Acts and Regulations”; “2007-2011” and finally on “GoN 543” for the regulations governing the EIA process. Lastly stay tuned to Wilbrink & Associates for further talks on EIA’s and the like. Feel free to contact our offices for professional and friendly advice on all your EIA concerns.