THE CASE FOR THE CREATION OF AN INDEPENDENT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT AGENCY FOR SOUTH AFRICA HAS NEVER BEEN CLEARER OR MORE IMMEDIATE.
One of the most liberating advantages of hosting an afternoon drive time show is that I get to speak to a wide variety of NGO’s and other organisations operating in South Africa which are effected by decisions of Parliament and Government Departments when it comes to the Environmental Impact of proposed projects and Government Expenditure. More aggravating to me however is when I come across holes in Government Policy where Environmental Impact Assessments are downplayed and sometimes not even required for Private Companies to proceed with profit-driven projects which definitely cause harm to South African citizens.
Did you know for instance that there is no longer a requirement in South Africa for those companies, which erect Cell Phone Masts or Internet Signal Equipment to conduct Environmental Awareness Assessments? Consequently whereas the international standard for the distance between masts and other such equipment is 1.5 km, in South Africa we often have masts erected next to one another or within a 1km radius of each other. The problem is simple. People are dying of increased rates of contracting cancers in this country due to the irradiation of our urban areas, and Government do not care. In-fact whereas these companies previously had to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for every erection, they don’t now have to even apply to ICASA, the would-be Statutory Body responsible for controlling these matters, for permission any longer to erect anything.
Where Environmental Impact Assessments are required for the approval of projects, for example in the Mining or Construction Industries there is no requirement of proof of neutrality or impartiality. Basically companies set out to find and pay the most compliant person they can to prepare a report which does not have to meet any national or international neutrally determined standards of compliance, saying that the project will not harm the environment. No neutral interrogation of those reports take place, and no consequences are investigated once the project has been implemented. Basically there is no recourse whatsoever.
The fact is that NGO after NGO which work with communities and people, and not with money and profit tell me that this country is being raped by the Private Sector and Government Officials acting in-concert with the Private Sector, because Government Parliamentarians and Heads of Departments have no appreciation of just how important effective and neutral Environmental Impact Assessments truly are and often are incentivized to look the other way as companies are allowed to proceed with their projects and installations in-spite of concerns of the impact on people, animals and our environment. There is no consideration for the world we are leaving for our children to inherit in South Africa.
The case for an independent, neutral, Environmental Impact Assessment Agency in South Africa has never been clearer. Such an Agency would act as a Statutory Body with powers of interrogation and prosecution. Every Private and Public Organisation proposing changes to our environmental or projects which could have an impact on our environment, citizens, animals, fauna or flora would have to have their projects pre-certified by such an Agency prior to application for licensing by any Government Department.
Such an Agency should have clearly mandated functions of Global Research for International Trends, Statistics Gathering to create a database for analytical studies of impact in South Africa in every area of our economy, Processing of Applications in-terms of truthfulness and completeness, securing the most professional independent and expert review Board Members for each and every application applied for, Reviewing Project progress for Reliability and Validity against project proposals, forcing remediation if and where required, prosecuting where infringements are detected, and naming and shaming perpetrators of abuse and shutting them out of Public and Private operations where required.
To be effective as such an Agency would require absolute independence guaranteed by statute on-a-par with the separation of Justice and the State in South Africa.
Basically what would be required is a true Political Commitment from Government to want to protect our environment and to set this country aside from other African and even First World countries. It would certainly give us something to shout about amongst our BRICS colleagues.
What would it cost us? Certainly a determined Fiscal Allocation from our Minister of Finance. This would be balanced by the income derived from a Staturorily enforced application process in every sphere of the economy.
What would also be required are National Laws including those of prosecution, protecting against the interference of Politicians and Government Officials in Tender and Licensing processes.
Who would need to be politically responsible for such an Agency? Most probably the Minister for Planning. No other Ministry could create the distance necessary to avoid Political Interference in decision making.
The benefits? Simply that we would be leaving something for our children to inherit. We would not deplete what are fast-becoming scarce National Resources in South Africa, and finally we would slow down the rate of causative factors causing human death in this country because of the greed-based interests of the Private Sector.
We would also change the current undeniable trend of our Natural Environment, our Flaura and our Fauna being rapidly depleted.
The case for an Independent Environmental Impact Assessment Agency responsible for the certification of every project which threatens any physical impact on our environment in South Africa, has never been clearer. The clock is ticking. Do our Politicians care? Do we as citizens have the power to make them care?