New environmental-impact assessment (EIA) regulations, which will be published shortly, will come into effect in July this year, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said on Friday.
Addressing the National Assembly during the Department of Environmental Affairs' budget vote, Sonjica said that the new regulations were an integral part of an environmental management system that was effective in enhancing environmental quality and efficient in terms of timeframes associated with decisionmaking.
She also noted that the new regulations were at the core of advancing the department's environmental sector programmes.
The new EIA regulations had been aligned with the amended National Environmental Management Act (Nema), promulgated in 2008.
Changes to the EIA regulations included references to new Nema provisions, introduction of a standard authorisation in cases where competent authorities missed decision-making timeframes, provision for norms and standards, landowner consent replaced with landowner notification, the exclusion of December 15 to January 2 for timeframes and public-private partnership purposes, and provisions relating to the inclusion of mining activities within the scope of the EIA regulations.
The new EIA regulations sought to streamline the EIA process and enable integration with other processes such as water-use licences, emission-to-air licences and mining-related approvals.
They would also introduce an approach where sensitive ecosystems were treated with more care than those areas that were not under threat. This would be achieved through the introduction of a listing notice dedicated to activities planned for sensitive areas, said Sonjica.