The influence of location on environmental impact assessment : examples from South Africa
Ideally, environmental impact assessments (EIAs) should be completed at low costs and within acceptable time frames; this is known as efficiency which is an important aspect of effectiveness. In this study, one aspect of efficiency, namely time and, more specifically, the influence of location on the completion time of South African EIAs, was investigated. To determine the extent to which location influences the completion time of EIAs, data were gathered throughout South Africa and included temporal and location data of scoping and environmental impact assessment (S&EIA) reports and basic assessment reports of various EIA regimes (1996 — 2017). Data gathering involved telephonically contacting 36 environmental assessment practitioners (EAPs) (four per province) to gather data on location and information on critical phases in the EIA process via a systematic data template. Data templates were sent to 15 EAPs and 10 were completed and returned, which comprised of 55 EIA cases (some EAPs provided more data than required). The possible journeys that role players generally undertake were categorised into four groups: Firstly, the EAP travelling to the site, secondly, the EAP travelling to the competent authority, thirdly, the applicant travelling to the site and lastly, the competent authority travelling to the site. Data analysis firstly consisted of preparing the data by means of Google Maps and computer software to obtain the various travelling routes, distances (km) and duration (min) of the above-mentioned journeys. Secondly, Pearson’s product moment correlation was conducted to test the relationships between distances and EIA completion time, duration of phases, duration of phases and completion time of the EIA process under different regulatory regimes and phases and completion time of the EIA process in different provinces. The correlation analysis was performed on a total of 49 relationships of which 36 were positive and 13 were inverse relationships. The positive relationships suggest greater distances result in longer EIAs and were mostly found in the travel distances from competent authority to site and duration phases. The inverse relationships suggest greater distances between role players and result in quicker handling of the EIA. This was mostly found between the travel distance of EAP to site or EAP to competent authority and duration of phases. Most of the relationships existed in the duration of the phases. These results implicate that location and more specifically distance have a smaller influence on completion time than expected.