Introduction and the theme of the investigation
The Environmental Impact Assessment (hereafter referred to as EIA), system originated in 1969 when it was first introduced in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) in the United States of America (Baker and Wood, 1999) and later spread to countries around the world. Today South Africa is one of the countries around the world that has adopted and adapted the EIA system as part of its environmental law (promulgated in the Environmental Conservation Act (73 of 1997, under Section 21, 22 and 26) and management (Sandham and Pretorius, 2008). EIA can be seen as an evaluation process. This process is aimed at the determination, evaluation and or assessment of the consequences that any development might have on the environment, whether negative and or positive. This assessment is used to aid decision-makers, prior to approval, to determine/ decide if a proposed development should continue or not (Jay et al, 2007, DEA, 2010 and DEA 2012).
South Africa adapted the EIA system and imbedded its core principle (protection of the environment) into the country’s constitution. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (No. 108 of 1996), section 24, dictates that, “Everyone has the right- (a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and, (b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures…” The South African government implemented the National Environmental Management Act (No 107 of 1998) with the purpose to enforce section 24 (b) of the constitution. This act (hereafter referred to as NEMA) goes one step further as it asserts under Section 2, that all interested and affected parties (I&AP) have the right to be involved and or consulted regarding all environmental impacts that might affect them in any way, this includes the social, environmental and or economic front
Under the EIA process the Public Participation (hereafter referred to as PP) tool can be utilized (IAIA, 2006). The core principle of the process however, is to allow and equip laymen (general public) to participate in the decision-making process that have the potential to influence them in any way (Andre et al, 2006 and DEAT, 2002). The ideal situation sought after, is where the PP process include laymen from all socioeconomic backgrounds in order to ensure acceptable and best possible environmental decisions Kakonje (1996).
In the year 2013, a study was conducted with a title, “What are the views of Black ethnic groups on proposed developments with regards to public participation and possible visual impacts in South Africa?” During the field visit, a common trend came fort amongst all interviewees, in terms of the fact that they all have some immediate problem the talk about. For example, when the interview starts, the conversation will be going around disappointments in politics, alcohol abuse, violence and...