Land use is central to development in Africa; as such, it should be regarded as an issue of public interest and not something to be determined solely by the landowner. Commitment to sustainable development dictates that land and its fruits should be conserved, and one of the most important conservation tools is environmental impact assessment (EIA). This chapter is concerned with the law and practice of EIA in South Africa and makes observations that, it is hoped, may inform the way EIA is practiced in other developing countries.
From my observation of the operation of environmental impact assessment in South Africa, it can be boiled down to four interrelated components beginning with P – the four Ps: provisions, process/procedure, people, and politics. These components are pivotal to the EIA process. There are, however, many aspects to the four Ps that can raise obstacles to the successful operation of EIA, many of which can be observed from the South African experience.
This chapter will commence by examining the way in which EIA has been implemented thus far in South Africa. This initial analysis will be followed by an examination of the four Ps and their subcomponents, using examples from South Africa to illustrate. Current EIA practice in South Africa, as will be revealed, suffers from several flaws. The South African government's proposed amendments to the system will be scrutinized to illustrate how effective they will be in solving these problems.