Launch of strategic environmental assessment of shale gas development
The primary purpose of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is to determine and evaluate the environmental implications of development, to inform decision-making at the project level. However, there are a number of more strategic decisions that are typically made at the planning, programming and policy level that influence the nature of development. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has therefore evolved, complementary to EIA, in order to determine the environmental implications of policies, plans and programmes.
The role of SEA is determined by its place in the decision making process. SEA can be used to assess a proposed policy, plan or programme that has already been developed; or it can be used to develop, evaluate and modify a policy, plan or programme during its formulation. This distinction is dependant on the stage in the decision-making process at which the SEA is undertaken and the stakeholders involved.
In addition, SEA can have both an advocacy role, where its primary purpose is to raise the profile of the environment, or an integrative role, where the focus is on combining environmental, social and economic considerations (Kørnøv and Thissen, 2000). Through the integration of environmental, social and economic objectives into the policy and planning process, SEA has the potential to assist in the implementation of the concept of sustainable development. SEA also has the potential to promote an integrated system of planning that incorporates sustainability objectives throughout the planning process, for example, in the identification of suitable locations for development and in the evaluation of alternative policies, plans and programmes (Therivel and Partidario, 1996).
South Africa is said to have the eighth-largest technically recoverable shale-gas resources in the world. It is estimated that these resources, located in the Karoo, to be 11-trillion cubic metres. Much focus has been on the fears about fracking. There may be legitimate environmental concerns about gas extraction in the Karoo and these must be addressed before production is permitted.
The aim of the strategic environmental assessment is to provide an integrated assessment and decision-making framework to enable South Africa to establish effective policy, legislation and sustainability conditions under which shale gas development could occur. The SEA will consider both the exploration and production related activities of shale gas development across different scenarios in a holistic and integrated manner; and will include an assessment of all the material social, economic and biophysical risks and opportunities associated with the industry.
The strategic environmental assessment (SEA) will be undertaken by a ‘science council consortium’, consisting of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Council for Geosciences (CGS).
The SEA for shale gas development was formally commissioned in February 2015 and will be 24 months in duration. The study area will include regions of the Karoo Basin which currently have exploration rights applications pending in the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape Provinces.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs launched the commission of a strategic environmental assessment of shale gas development in South Africa joined by representatives from the Departments of Water and Sanitation, Mineral Resources, Energy, and Science and Technology on Tuesday, 12 March 2015.
The launch coincides with this years theme of the 2015 World Migratory Birds Day commemoration, “Energy – make it bird-friendly!”, which aims to highlight the importance of deploying energy technologies in a way that prevents, minimises and mitigates impacts on migratory birds and their habitats.
Statement by Ministers Edna Molea, Naledi Pandor and Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant during launch of strategic environmental assessment of shale gas development in South Africa
12 May 2015 - We are gathered at this briefing today as a Ministerial Task Team and our Technical Team consisting of Departments of Minerals Resources, Environmental Affairs, Science and Technology, Water and Sanitation and Energy.