An environmental evaluation procedure for coastal township and resort development proposals in South Africa

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Most coastal nations recognise the environmental, economic and educational value of their coastal zones. Consequently, they have developed integrated management programmes and employ a variety of strategies, in particular, Environmental Impact Assessment, to promote the sustainable use and development of these resource- rich areas. In South Africa, the absence of a formal, holistic and systematic procedure for evaluating proposals that affect the coastal environment is identified as one of the main causes of coastal degradation. The Integrated Environmental Management Procedure, developed in 1992, provides a generic framework within which the planning and evaluation of proposals, significantly affecting the environment can be made. Further development of more detailed procedures, practical guidelines and tools for specific activities or in particular environments, is now urgently required. The central aim of this dissertation is to develop an environmental evaluation procedure for coastal township and resort development proposals, consistent with the principles of Integrated Environmental Management, and appropriate to the conditions in a developing country, such as South Africa. The proposed procedure addresses key weaknesses inherent in most Environmental Impact Assessment systems in developing countries and incorporates and builds upon relevant Coastal Zone Management strategies operative in South Africa. Furthermore, it seeks to unpack and clarify the Environmental Impact Assessment concept by identifying its underlying principles, clarifying procedural requirements and making operational the processes which characterise it. To assist with implementation, a variety of tools and a series of practical guidelines have been developed. The key features of the procedure were derived from an extensive literature review, an examination of the environmental evaluation and coastal management systems operating in South Africa, a questionnaire survey amongst coastal managers, and from case study material. Action research informed ideas for making operational the processes of scoping and public participation. Particular attention was given to identifying and developing appropriate methods and guidelines for identifying impacts, determining impact significance, involving the public, assessing recreational carrying capacity, clarifying trade-offs amongst alternatives, marrying expert opinion and local experiential knowledge and incorporating subjective value judgements into the assessment and decision-making processes. It is submitted that the employment of this procedure to all proposals affecting the coastal zone and the establishment of the proposed institutional mechanisms for its implementation, will streamline and enhance existing coastal management efforts and give direction to the further development and implementation of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management programme for South Africa.

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