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ARE EIA’S WORTH THE PAPER IT’S WRITTEN ON?

by Jan Arkert

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the purpose of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study. But for the benefit of the layperson, especially those who will be affected by Total’s (TEPSA) application to drill an additional 10 exploration wells off the Cape South Coast, let me clarify. An EIA can be defined as the study to predict the effect of a proposed activity/project on the environment. It can also be regarded as a tool to aid the decision-making process as it compares various alternatives for a project and seeks to identify the one which represents the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits.

So with this in mind, it should be of great concern to all interested parties that the noble concept of EIA’s has been reduced to nothing less than an elaborate box-ticking exercise. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Environmental Assessment Practitioners (EAPs) – who are supposed to provide an unbiased opinion on proposed activities – conduct EIA’s to satisfy the requirements of bureaucrats.

In my opinion, it is evident that despite South Africa’s sound legislation, EIA’s are being undermined by vested interests that look to reduce the process to a financially rewarding exercise in which the essence of social and environmental reflection has been forgotten. In my opinion the process of conducting EIA’s is rapidly deteriorating into a disgrace. The situation can only be remedied when EAP’s truly act independently and in environmental and social interests, and government departments qualified to vet the reports do so with the due diligence and sincerity that is deserved. 

Having spent a substantial portion of my career perusing and commenting on environmental impact reports, I have come to the position where I must ask if they have any real value.

Post 1994, South Africa’s environmental legislation was redrafted, and Section 24 of our constitution includes clauses to guarantee our environmental health. There is no doubt that our National Environmental Act (NEMA) and its many derivations are sound pieces of legislation, but like any law, it is only as effective as its application.

Currently I am a registered interested and affected party (IAP) in Total’s (TEPSA) application to drill an additional 10 exploration well off the Cape South Coast.  The public were initially given 30 days to review – to go through a document that was more than 250 pages in length (an attachment of approx.. 55mb), covering complex scientific and technical issues.

The period for comment was extended by an additional 30 days due to objections lodged by The Green Connection and other environmental NGO’s who opposed the poorly conducted public participation process during the CoVid-19 lockdown period. The public participation process, as far as I know, was conducted as a single webinar that excluded communities and individuals with no access to wi-fi or electronic media.

Public consultation was not conducted. And, I emphasize the word consultation. Affected people along the Cape south coast have not been adequately empowered to provide an informed decision about activities along the coast, which may have direct impact on their lives. Consultation is not about placing adverts in newspapers that few people read, a few radio advertisements or placing large verbose documents in libraries. It is not about a webinar in which questions could only be placed in writing with no opportunities to provide follow up comments when inadequate answers were provided. Consultation is face to face meetings and discussions in which all communities are informed and empowered to provide their opinion on the issues that may impact upon their current and future lives.

The final Scoping Report has now been submitted to the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA), a government agency whose mandate is to promote exploration for onshore and offshore oil and gas resources and their optimal development on behalf of government. This is a great example of the fox guarding the hen house.

Be that as it may, diligently included in the final submission are comments received from IAP’s, by far the majority opposing the proposed off-shore oil and gas exploration. What struck me, as I went through the reply provided by the Environmental Assessment Practitioners (EAP), was the seemingly defensive tone as well as the number of replies that wish to assure us that TEPSA has the experience, or TEPSA will apply best industry practice or TEPSA motivated… I was not aware being a spokesman for the applicant’s abilities forms a part of the EAP’s scope of work.

This makes a complete mockery of the proudly presented declaration by the EAP that they have no vested interest in the outcome of the project – a standard declaration required in all these reports. Since when does a consultant, who is paid handsomely by the applicant, have no vested interest when his services are being paid for?

It is obvious, in my opinion that the EAP will do all in their power to ensure that they are re-appointed for the next phase of the project. They have a direct interest in the outcome of the project, their bottom line depends on it. So, once again economic considerations trump environmental protection and people’s livelihoods.

Articles, News & Events

World Oceans Day event hosted by WILDOCEANS at the Ushaka Marine World – Aquarium on 8 June

A celebratory World Oceans Day event, hosted by WILDOCEANS and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), was held at uShaka Marine Worlds’ Aquarium on the evening of the 8th of June.

Press Release Coalition for South Africas Oceans

(L to R) Judy Mann Lang (SAAMBR), Liz McDaid (Green Connection), Dr Andrew Venter (WILDTRUST), Dr Jean Harris (WILDOCEANS), Alex Benkenstein (SAIIA), Sizo Sibanda (UCT), John Duncan (WWF SA) and Judy Beaumont (DEA) – are all playing a strategic role in the future of our oceans.
(L to R) Desmond DSa of SDCEA (South Durban Community Environmental Alliance) in discussion with top environmental journalists Tony Carnie and Green Connections’ Liz McDaid, also a Goldman Environmental Awardee.
Judy Beaumont, the Deputy Director General at the Department of Environmental Affairs, delivered a powerful key note address at the WILDOCEANS World Oceans Day Event at Ushaka Marine Worlds’ aquarium on 8 June
Sizo Sibanda is an avid science communicator, currently pursuing her master’s degree through UCT and SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute). She blew everyone away with her presentation looking at optimising Marine Protected Area design to increase socioecological benefits.

Liz and Makoma were awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Foundation’s Prize in San Francisco, USA
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LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL HEROES AWARDED THE GOLDMAN PRIZE IN SAN FRANCISCO

Today – almost exactly a year to the day since winning the nuclear court case – the two women who were the driving force behind the victory, were awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Foundation’s Prize in San Francisco, USA. Just a few hours ago, Earthlife Africa-Johannesburg’s (ELA-JHB) Makoma Lekalakala and Liziwe McDaid from the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) joined the winners from five other continents as they were applauded for their efforts to successfully mobilise South Africans against the government’s secret R1-trillion nuclear deal.

Christy Bragg, a Green Connection colleague who has worked with Liz since 2005, says, “Liz and Makomo are visionary women, and epitomize South African grit and passion. Liz has been a mentor for me since I was a young, uneducated-but-qualified scientist. She is a bigger-picture thinker, an influencer and believes deeply in hearing the voice of civil society. This prize is well-deserved recognition for a lifetime of diligent, empathetic and perservering leadership, where many others would have swayed from the path. They, amongst others, have shown us the possibilities for South Africa to be known as a world leader in sustainable solutions if it could be the country where the people are valued and heard.”

Liz McDaid’s speech for the Goldman Prize

Goldman Environmental Foundation Press Release

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Green Connection outside BBC – London on 18 May 2018

Liz McDaid was observing a collection of plastic pollution gathered from local ocean and coast. The Green Connection works with small scale fisheries and The Responsible Fisheries Alliance coordinated by WWF-SA. ‘Reducing plastic pollution is critical for the sustainability of fisheries”, said Liz McDaid.

Recycling hope for plastic-hungry enzyme

Liz outside BBC in London
Articles, Climate Change Project, Courses, News & Events, Programmes

International Oceans Institute – South Africa

The Green Connection was asked to assist with training the trainers in the IOISA initiative to assist the Department of Fisheries in supporting the new small scale policy roll out. During 2017, various workshops were carried out around the coast.

Small Scale Responsible Fisheries Training – IOISA

Small Scale Responsible Fisheries training – 2017 photos

Small Scale Responsible Fisheries training – 2018 photos

The first “Train the Trainer” event took place in Cape Town in 2017 for Western Cape and Northern Cape facilitators.

                                      Train the Trainer event. (Liz in the back row – left hand side.) 

Sustainable Fisheries Initiative

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Responsible Fisheries

The Green Connection facilitates understanding of responsible fisheries. In 2007, The Green Connection designed and implemented a capacity building course on Responsible Fisheries for the Responsible Fisheries Alliance which is coordinated by WWF-SA. Which also ran the Sustainable Seafood Initiative.

The Green Connection trained WWF facilitators so that they could be accredited to run the course. Liz McDaid has also facilitated this course between 2007 – 2012 and 2015 – 2017.

In addition the Green Connection developed an updated refresher course for the responsible fisheries alliance. The trainer course was facilitated for RFA trainers and small scale fisheries trainers.

Part of the updated course includes more information on climate change and information on plastic pollution. Plastic pollution gathered from local ocean and coast

Responsible Fisheries Workshop
Module 2 of the Responsible Fisheries Workshop

International Oceans Institute – South Africa

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Women Empowerment

Liz McDaid is the coordinator of the Global Green Grants Fund advisory board in Southern Africa

She attended and helped develop training material for a workshop on women’s rights run by an organisation that works with women and mining, called WOMIN. The Green Connection’s Liz McDaid worked with WOMIN specifically to develop resource material on renewable energy and energy justice and promote energy security for women. Women Building Power report.

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World Environment Day – Connecting People to Nature

This amazing, spinning ball of rock and water, hurtling through space at more than 100,000 kilometres an hour, provides us with everything we need to live and be healthy. It’s a delicate balance, with various interconnected natural systems — hydrologic and carbon cycles, ocean and atmospheric currents among them — creating ideal conditions for human life.

If the balance is upset, natural systems will correct and the planet will endure, but those corrections may hinder or halt the ability of humans to thrive, or even survive. You’d think this would be incentive enough for us to learn about and care for natural systems, but recent news sometimes makes me feel as if there’s a huge disconnect between people and the planet.

Read more……. 

Articles, Climate Change Project, News & Events, Renewable Energy

RENEWABLE ENERGY: WHERE ARE THE JOBS – LAUNCH ON 28 MARCH 2017

The long awaited AIDC-commissioned research – RENEWABLE ENERGY: WHERE ARE THE JOBS – A Critique Of The Government’s Socio-Economic Programme – will be launched at AIDC at 18.00 on the 28th.

Liz McDaid, the well-known researcher and social activist, will introduce her research findings and recommendations.  The meeting will be Chaired by Tasneem Essop, former Provincial Minister of Environment, Planning and Economic Development in the Western Cape and a current member of the National Planning Commission.

There will also be lots of time for questions and discussions, which can include Eskom’s threatened closure of 5 coal mines which Eskom claims to be a direct consequence of the government’s renewable energy programme.

For further information contact

Dominic Brown or Jeff Rudin
021 447 5770

 

RENEWABLE ENERGY Where are the jobs?