Many conservancies, including Rhenosterspruit, have been burdened with a continual stream of development applications.

Yet the legal process, specifically public participation, is often felt to be inadequate and flawed by those who are trying to protect the “sense of place” that characterises their area.

South Africa has been using Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as one of the tools to decide on the suitability, or otherwise, of a development that impacts significantly on an area. In November 2008, the results of an in-depth assessment of the effectiveness of the EIA process was presented by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to all sectors dealing with EIAs. A Steering Committee was appointed to develop a strategy for more effective measurement of environmental impacts.

The interests of private landowners, conservationists, communities and civil society are represented on this Steering Committee by the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) and local RNC resident, Mercia Komen, founder of the Custodian Project.

In February, this Steering Committee was mandated to develop a strategy to “rationalise the EIA as a tool and investigate the use of alternative tools for assessing and managing environmental impacts to either replace or complement EIA”, says Mercia.

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