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A critical evaluation of the concept of sustainable development as applied in the legislation governing environmental impact assessments in South Africa (case studies: housing developments)
Osborne, Bernadette Nadine
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The concept “Sustainable Development” (SD) is defined and interpreted differently worldwide with the result that it encompasses different meanings to different people. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) process has been identified as a key tool for the implementation of SD. This research focuses on the concept of SD and its interpretation, meaning and implementation in terms of the legislation governing EIAs in South Africa. The research methodology employed in the thesis involves a literature study of the historical development and emergence of the concept of SD and the legal framework in which it is contextualised in South Africa. This is followed by a critical evaluation of the concept and its implementation using Jacob’s six Fault Lines. These Fault Lines include (i) the degree of environmental protection that is envisaged to attain SD, (ii) the emphasis placed on equality as a prerequisite for SD, (iii) the measure of participation required to attain SD, (iv) the scope of the concept of SD, (v) the environmental monitoring and evaluation that is required for SD as well as (vi) environmental planning to achieve the goal of SD. The second half of the thesis employs a case study methodology to evaluate the implementation of SD in five separate housing EIA processes in the Stellenbosch Municipal Area. Personal interviews and site observations are used to inform the case studies. The study identifies major conceptual flaws associated with the interpretation and implementation of the concept of SD as well as the challenges preventing EIAs from being an effective tool to enhance SD.The main findings are that EIAs do not sufficiently take into account the cumulative impacts of developments, they are unable to protect the environment from the increasing demand for additional housing in South Africa and that there is insufficient monitoring of EIA processes to ensure adequate long-term environmental protection.
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