Mkhondeni Stream Catchment Area Strategic Environmental Assessment : an examination of governance processes with particular reference to public participation.
Abboy, Cassandra S.
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In recent years within South Africa, good governance has become a governmental goal with sound public participation processes becoming a core element of good governance practices. As a result of this goal, most decision-making tools have an element of public participation within them: a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is one such tool. This study aimed to examine the governance processes within the draft Mkhondeni Stream Catchment (MSC) area SEA with particular reference to public participation. Five objectives were conceived to achieve this aim. The first objective involved an examination of the public participation processes as articulated by the legislation. The second objective involved an examination of the public participation processes of the draft MSC area SEA. The third objective was to determine whether the ‘deliberation’ or public participation process was adequate. The fourth objective was to investigate how the draft MSC area SEA was framed and reframed by key stakeholders. The fifth and last objective of this study was to reflect on the public participation process and how it may be strengthened. Against the background of a focused literature review on good governance practices, public participation and SEAs, the fieldwork undertaken involved a qualitative approach using key informant interviews and random community member’s interviews. The key informant interviews were held with what are widely considered to be the key stakeholders within the MSC area SEA process. Random interviews were held with Ashburton community members to add value to this study by allowing for a wider perspective from general community members to be understood. There were 5 objectives that are set out for this study and they were achieved. Objective 1 is achieved through an examination into the public participation processes as articulated by the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and legislation. The findings reveal that there is sufficient legislation and processes with regards to public participation in terms of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs); however it is noted that there is a lack of clarity with regards to the public participation processes and legislation within the SEA process and at present there are only recommendations for best practice. Objective 2 and 3 are achieved as they dealt with the understanding and adequacy of the public participation processes within the draft Mkhondeni SEA. The findings generated allow for the public participation methods and process used to be noted and in relation to the methods and process used the public participation process was deemed to be inadequate as it did not meet the minimum requirements stipulated by legislation in terms of public participation within an environmental assessment as well as the recommendations for best practice. Objective 4 is achieved by investigating how the draft SEA is framed by the key stakeholders. Out of the results the emerging themes that were identified within this study were that of: (a) Misrepresentation of the community by the Preservation of the Mkondeni Mpushini Biodiversity Trust (PMMBT); (b) the SEA being viewed as a learning process in which a lack of clarity emerged amongst interested and affected parties (I & APs) about the exact process that needed to be carried out to achieve the SEA; (c) a lack of trust in the government to take the comments of the community into consideration; (d) the importance of education within society about environmental tools, such as the SEA, and their uses; and (e) the need for social development to be considered alongside environmental concerns within the Ashburton area. And lastly, objective 5 is achieved as the public participation process within the draft SEA is reflected upon and recommendations are made. These recommendations deal with the following: (1) Involvement in the Formulation of the ToR, (2) Identification of I & APs, (3) Feedback, (4) Capacity Building and Education needs and (5) Management of the SEA Process. The intention of the researcher is that the knowledge derived from engaging with interviewees and from researching relevant literature will be used to improve future decision-making processes with the overall aim of improving the relationship between the relevant authorities and communities affected by so-called development.
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