ESience Services

Environmental Impact Assessment & Review

EScience Associates' integrated team of specialist consultants are able to undertake regulatory [as required in terms of relevant legislation such as the National Environmental Management Act, National Environmental Management: Waste Act, National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act and /or National Water Act (amongst others)], as well as independently commissioned (best practice), site specific or strategic environmental assessment processes, as follows:

  • Scoping / terms of reference for environmental impact assessment.
  • Specialist assessment of botanical, terrestrial and forest ecological, air quality, soil and groundwater contamination potential.
  • Environmental impact assessment studies for all development typologies and industry sectors.
  • Environmental impact assessment (EIA) project management.
  • Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and,
  • third party, independent, environmental impact assessment review.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) started in earnest in the 1970s in the United States in response to the National Environmental Protection Act of 1970. Other countries such as Australia soon followed. South Africa initiated environmental impact assessment in the 1990s, following the promulgation of the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 of 1989) and its ‘EIA regulations’ in 1997.

EIA became a legal requirement in South Africa in 1997, but before then EIA was used on a voluntary basis by some. A survey conducted amongst all provinces during March 2006 revealed that over 40 000 applications were submitted from 1997 up to March 2006.

The promulgation of the new National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) (Act 107 of 1998) EIA regulations which were promulgated into law in 2006 is likely to see an increase in the number of applications submitted due to a more comprehensive list of activities requiring environmental authorisation. The challenge now is to embark upon usage of a wider range of environmental management tools, not just EIA.

Immediate objectives of EIA are to:

  • provide information for authorisation decision-making in terms of the environmental consequences of proposed activities;
  • promote environmentally sound and sustainable development through the identification of appropriate enhancement and mitigation measures;
  • improve the environmental design of the proposal;
  • ensure that resources are used appropriately and efficiently;
  • identify appropriate measures for mitigating the potential impacts of the proposal; and
  • facilitate informed decision-making, including setting the environmental terms and conditions for implementing the proposal

EIA AND REGULATIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA Regulation 385 of 2006 sets out the detailed requirements and procedures that Applicants should follow to obtain approval of so-called ‘listed’ activities prior to their commencement. The first critical step is to determine whether basic assessment or scoping is to be applied to the application. A basic assessment must be applied if the authorisation for the planned activity falls into any activity as ‘listed’ in Regulation 386 of 2006 (Referred to as Listing 1). Scoping & EIA must be applied to an application if any component of the planned activity is listed in Regulation 387 of 2006 (Referred to as Listing 2).


Basic Assessment is the level of environmental assessment applied to activities listed in GNR 386:2006 regulations promulgated in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998). These are “smaller scale” activities or expansions of existing activities where the impacts of these activities are generally known, are relatively small and management requirements can easily be identified. Typically, Basic Assessment is applied to activities that are considered less likely to have significant environmental impacts, or the impacts are known and, therefore, unlikely to require scoping before Environmental Impact Assessment. A Basic Assessment Report is a more concise analysis of the environmental impacts of the proposed activity than a Scoping and EIA Report, and it is inherently assumed that the Environmental Assessment Practitioner will identify and apply acceptable methodology for the assessment. Basic Assessment requires public notice and participation, consideration of the potential environmental impacts of the activity, assessment of possible mitigation measures, and an assessment of whether there are any significant issues or impacts that might require further investigation. The Basic Assessment Report must provide the Competent Authority with sufficient information to consider the Application and to reach an informed decision. If the Competent Authority is however unable to decide the Application based on the Basic Assessment report alone, the Competent Authority may require an Applicant to undertake a Scoping and EIA process.


Scoping and EIA is the thorough environmental assessment required for activities contained in GNR 387:2006. The activities listed in this listing are likely to have significant impacts due to their nature and/or extent. These activities are therefore considered higher risk activities that potentially cause higher levels of pollution, waste and environmental degradation. The potentially complex nature of these activities and their associated impacts requires scoping.

The objectives of scoping are to:

  • identify the issues that are likely to be of most importance during the EIA.
  • Eliminate issues that are likely to be of little concern in the EIA.
  • Inform the public of the potentially significant impacts of the proposal.
  • Identify the main stakeholders and their concerns and values.
  • Identify the appropriate temporal and spatial boundaries of the EIA.
  • Identify the information necessary for decision-making.
  • Define feasible development alternatives for the proposal.
  • Produce a plan of study for EIA.

Scoping provides the foundations for an effective and efficient EIA process. When systematically carried out, and culiminates in the formulation of in a Plan of Study for Environmental Impact Assessment (POSEIA) that provides clear direction to the proponent on what is required in the EIA. S24G Rectification applications If a ‘Listed’ activity, is commenced without the necessary Environmental Authorization, then the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998) an application for rectification, in terms of NEMA Section 24 G must be undertaken, and the applicant is subject may be subject to a fine and required to rectify transgressions or unacceptable impacts from the unauthorised activities. The nature and scale of the rectification application that is to be undertaken is dependent on where the activity that has been commenced. The process of rectification is similar to undertaking a full EIA or Basic Assessment process; however, a stringent fine for unlawful commencement of a listed activity will be imposed. Upon conviction of such an offence, a person is liable to a fine not exceeding R5 million or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or to both such a fine and imprisonment.