Department of Environmental Affairs | Requirement to submit a report generated by the national web based environmental screening tool
03 Sep 2019
On 5 July 2019, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Dallas Creecy, published a notice requiring that when submitting an application for environmental authorisation in terms of regulation 19 and regulation 21 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2014 (as amended) (the “EIA Regulations”), the applicant must submit the report generated by the National Web Based Screening Tool (the “Screening Tool”) with the application.
The Notice will come into effect in October 2019, 90 days after the publication thereof.
Published in terms of section 24(5)(h) of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998), the Notice provides that, “in order to ensure a consistent quality and to facilitate efficient evaluation of reports”, the Minister may prescribe minimum criteria for the content and process of each type of report compiled in terms of the EIA Regulations.
Regulation 16(1)(b)(v) of the EIA Regulations provides that all applications for environmental authorisation must be made on an official application and, when submitted in terms of regulations 19 or 21, must be accompanied by “the report generated by the national web based environmental screening tool, once this tool is operational”. The Screening Tool has been operational since roughly August 2018.
Essentially, the government notice gives effect to regulation 16(1)(b)(v) of the EIA Regulations and makes it compulsory to utilise the Screening Tool when undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) in terms of the EIA Regulations.
A Summary on the National Web Based Environmental Screening Tool
The Screening Tool, developed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (“DEA”), is a geospatial web-enabled application that aims to provide readily available information, known as ‘spatial datasets’, which enables applicants for Environmental Authorisation to screen their proposed site for environmental sensitivities.
A spatial dataset is geographic information that identifies the location of features and boundaries on land. Geographic features can include natural features, such as oceans, rivers or forests, or man-made features, such as cities, historical monuments or agricultural land. Spatial datasets are usually saved as coordinates so that the specific features can be displayed on a map.
The DEA, together with several private and public organisations, has compiled over 100 environmental datasets including, inter alia, the South African protected areas and conservation areas databases.
The Screening Tool provides site specific information to assist an applicant throughout the EIA process. The information provided includes, for example, zoning identification, applicable Environmental Management Frameworks or bio-regional plans, project specific requirements such as specialist studies, and the minimum information to be included in the EIA report.
Amongst others, the purpose of the Screening Tool is:
- to fast track the environmental assessment process by providing timeous reports;
- to ensure ongoing improvement to the efficiency and effectiveness of the EIA process;
- to enable the applicant to manipulate the development footprint on a site to avoid environmental sensitivities; and
- to identify any specific exclusions, restrictions, prohibitions or exceptions to the EIA process that apply to a particular site.
Once each step of the Environmental Screening process has been completed a final report will be generated. This final report must be submitted with each application for environmental authorisation in terms of the EIA Regulations.
The Screening Tool has been designed to be user friendly and no specific software or specialised GIS skills are required; any person can use the Screening Tool at any time.
To familiarise users, a training webinar has been uploaded by the DEA at the following web address: www.iaia.org/webinars.php
The Screening Tool can be accessed at: screening.environment.gov.za/screeningtool. Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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