National Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Strategy (EIAMS)


Introduction and background

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, (Act No. 108 of 1996), for the first time placed people and not conservation at the centre of environmental management.

The National Environmental Management Act, (No 107 of 1998) (NEMA)includes an overarching framework policy developed through a comprehensive participatory process known as the Consultative National Environmental Policy Process (CONNEPP). The white paper, amongst other things, defines the nature of sustainable development and introduces sustainable development as the accepted approach to resource management.

The Framework for sustainable development was compiled in order to articulate South Africa‘s national vision for sustainable development and indicate strategic interventions to re-orientate South Africa’s development path in a more sustainable direction.

Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) enforced by Chapter 5 of NEMA is one of the polic y directives towards giving effect to section 24 of the Constitution and the sustainable development imperatives of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The purpose of this chapter is to promote the application of appropriate environmental management tools in order to ensure the integrated environmental management of activities.

Regulations regulating environmental impact assessments were passed in 1997 in terms of the Environment Conservation Act, 1989.  These regulations were implemented by both the provincial and national spheres of government. The post-1994 evolution of law in South Africa and the problems with the implementation of the EIA Regulations necessitated the development of new EIA Regulations. NEMA (as amended) made provision for the development of the new EIA Regulations to replace the 1997 EIA Regulations, which came into effect in July 2006.

After the implementation of the 2006 NEMA Regulations the time was right to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of EIA in South Africa.  The then Department of Environmental Affairs and Toursim (DEAT) therefore launched an extensive investigation and reviewed the efficiency and effectiveness (REE) of EIA practice as implemented over the period of 10 years. The REE culminated in the “Ten Years of EIA in South Africa Conference” and the findings of the issues were reported. It was agreed that the current system giving effect to the objectives of IEM as indicated in section 23 of NEMA is inadequate. At the conference it was agreed that an Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Strategy (EIAMS) should be formulated for SA. A desired future was sketched and it was agreed that the strategy should be developed and implemented to map the road in achieving such new system.

Since 1 May 2009, the EIA system also has to be implemented and administrated in adherence to amendments affected to NEMA through the National Environmental Management Amendment Act, 2008 (Act No. 62 of 2008). The process of amending the 2006 EIA Regulations is completed with replacement regulations which were promulgated on 2 August 2010.

Although the White Paper and the objectives of Chapter 5 of NEMA envisaged tools for all elements defined in terms of NEMA, the system which was adopted and implemented only addressed command and control (through EIA) and was in its application very much limited to “projects” as opposed to the wide range included in the definition of activities in NEMA.


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Purpose, context and madate of EIAMS

The purpose of the EIAMS process is therefore to facilitate a participatory process in order to compile a strategy that gives effect to the objectives of integrated environmental management as contained in Section 23 of NEMA within the context of the principles of sustainable development (Section 2 of NEMA).

The strategy must look at the desired future state for the EIAM system and path the way to achieve it within the mandate provided by Chapter 5 of NEMA and within a strategic policy context.

The desired future includes an environmental impact assessment and management system, consisting of voluntary and regulated instruments in the next 5 years, where:

  • the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of the current system have been corrected and the efficiencies and effectiveness optimised
  • regulated EIA is used only when it is the most appropriate tool
  • IEM is given effect through a variety of other instruments that would, depending on the nature of activities and/or the receiving environment supplement, compliment or replace EIA
  • EIAM takes place within a strategic context of environmentally informed spatial instruments, sector strategies and policies
  • authoritiesare sufficiently capacitated with skilled and experienced officials
  • other stakeholders are capacitated and empoweredto ensure maximum impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the strategy
  • government regulatory processeshave been as far as possible integrated, or at least aligned and
  • all stakeholders are equally committed to make it work:  Government, EAPs, developers, community etc.


The Strategy was developed within the context of existing legislation, policies, NEMA, plans including National, Provincial, Local Integrated Development plans. The Strategy will need to respond to the current legislative context but should also influence it.


The Mandate of the Strategy stems from NEMA chapter 5 with specific reference to:

  • Section 23: General objectives:

The purpose of this Chapter is to promote the application of appropriate environmental management tools in order to ensure the integrated environmental management of activities. Activities in this instance mean policies, programmes, processes, plans and projects. Section 24 gives effect to the objectives contained in Section 23 of NEMA only through environmental authorizations. Environmental Authorizations include mainly 3 themes:

  • Identification of activities which require authorization.
  • Process/procedures for authorization (including instruments)
  • Implementation of authorization.

Section 24 however fails to allow for usage of instruments such as norms and standards that do not fall within the scope of the definition of “norms and standards” as provided for in section 1 of the Act.

fidure 1: context and mandate

Figure 1: context and mandate


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Project strutures and themes

The conference in 2008 agreed on project structures for the EIAMS

The project structures include:

  • The project management team (PMT)
  • The project coordinator (PC)
  • The project steering committee (PSC)
  • The theme coordinating committees (TCC)
  • The subtheme task teams (STTT)
  • The advisory group (AG)


Project structures

Figure 2: project structures

Three themes were identified for the strategy namely:

  • Governance and administration
  • Capacity, skills and transformation
  • Impacts and instruments

The project coordinator was appointed in February 2010 and the first PSC workshop was also held in February 2010. The three theme coordinating committees were established in May 2010 and the second PSC meeting was held on 28 July 2010. The terms of references for the PSC and TCCs have been finalised as well as the business plan, time frames and vision for the strategy.

Themes and subthemes

At the PSC meeting in February 2010 the draft subthemes were developed and thereafter amalgamated and confirmed by the second PSC meeting in July 2010. The following subthemes under each theme have been agreed upon:

Theme 1: Governance and administration:

Theme 2: Capacity, skills and transformation

Theme 3: Impacts and instruments

The process utilised for the development of the strategy included a bottom up process which commenced with the compilation of 11 subtheme reports by independent EAPs as mentioned above, and thereafter the interrogation and integration of the common trends and recommendations - stemming from the subtheme reports – in two theme reports by independent EAPs. The two theme reports were used to develop nine building platforms and a number of associated pillars. These platforms and pillars provide the foundation for the EIAMS in seeking to address the problems inherent in the current IEM system. The two theme reports identified the following nine root causes underlying the limited success of the current IEM system in achieving sustainability (where a ‘lack’ means to not have enough of something):

  1. Lack of internalisation of NEMA principles and the principles of sustainability.
  2. Lack of effective cooperative governance.
  3. Lack of mechanisms for monitoring, evaluation, feedback and adaptive management, and conflict resolution.
  4. Lack of a systematic approach to the use of environmental management instruments and tools.
  5. Lack of confidence in environmental professionals.
  6. Lack of effective knowledge management and skills to utilise the knowledge management systems.
  7. Lack of understanding of and appreciation for, the environment and environmental management instruments and tools.
  8. Lack of effective public participation and appreciation for public participation as a process that adds value to Integrated Environmental Management.
  9. Lack of transformation of the environmental sector.

The following nine building platforms or main objectives, expressed as desired outcomes, were identified to address the root causes of these problems. These form the main building platforms of the EIAMS:

  1. All Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) systems and processes are directed towards achieving sustainability.
  2. There is effective alignment – and in some instances full integration - between and within all spheres of government and organs of state in giving effect to IEM.
  3. Monitoring and evaluation of socio-economic, ecological and IEM systems and processes lead to adaptive management.
  4. Environmental management instruments and tools are effective in achieving the objectives of IEM.
  5. Environmental practitioners and specialists are professional, ethical, objective and independent.
  6. Environmental information and information management systems are credible, up-to-date, accurate and accessible to all role-players in IEM systems and processes.
  7. All role-players are environmentally aware and are capacitated to engage meaningfully in IEM systems and processes.
  8. The purpose of public participation is understood and the process is used by all role-players in IEM systems and processes to inform environmental governance.
  9. A transformed environmental sector exists.

The building platforms are supported by pillars leading to relevant appropriate actions. Further detail is provided in the body of the document.


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Progress as at October 2015

The first draft of the strategy was circulated for comment and detailed and extensive comments on the first draft of the EIAMS were received. A small task team that was established and mandated considered the comments received and amended and edited the first draft strategy after in-depth contemplation and discussion of the comments.

The final draft strategy was circulated for 3 weeks for final comments from the different sectors by 7 July 2014. All comments received were considered extensively and informed the final draft document which can be downloaded from the website.





Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Strategy (EIAMS) - 2014

The EIAMS has been informed by, and provides a summary of, clear national directives that should inform the sustainability pathway for the country, drawn from inter alia the National Development Plan (NDP), the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), Presidential Outcome 10 and the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD).

» download document [PDF - 1.94 mb] 



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