SCOTT MASSON Consulting engineers and scientists, SRK Consulting South Africa is undertaking the Environmental Impact Assessment process and associated permit applications for the Doringbaai Aquaculture project in the Western Cape
A decision on an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Doringbaai Aquaculture project, under government’s Operation Phakisa initiative, is expected in mid-2016.
Operation Phakisa aims to unlock South Africa’s economic growth and development through an ocean economy, which is expected to have the potential to contribute about R177-billion to the gross domestic product by 2033.
Consulting engineers and scientists, SRK Consulting South Africa is undertaking the EIA process and associated permit applications for the Doringbaai Aquaculture project, which is based in the Western Cape.
Proposed by the Matzikama municipality and identified by Operation Phakisa as one of 24 projects to improve the number and productivity of new aquaculture farms in South Africa, the project includes the development of abalone farms along the Doringbaai coast.
SRK environmental consultant Scott Masson tells Engineering News that the Matzikama municipality prioritised the development and growth of the local economy as the principal strategic objective for the period 2012 to 2017.
Six abalone farms, each with a yearly production output of between 150 and 300 tons, have been proposed and will be located close to the coast.
Water will be extracted from the sea and channelled through the farms and the effluent seawater will be discharged back into the sea.
SRK will undertake the Scoping and Environmental Impact Reporting process required by the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and the EIA Regulations of 2014.
The municipality will construct the infrastructure for the abalone farms and it is expected that third parties will establish and operate the abalone farms in phases.
“The municipality identified and adopted the development of the aquaculture sector, particularly the abalone subsector, as the leading intervention to give effect to the objective of reducing poverty and unemployment. It perceives the project as an opportunity to create sustainable livelihoods, especially for those in the area,” Masson says.
SRK principal environmental consultant Sharon Jones says companies entering sectors, such as aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, as well as marine manufacturing and transport, will need to navigate complex and demanding environmental regulations that govern the marine environment.
She says while current environmental regulations are effective in upholding environmental protection, compliance and enforcement are often difficult, especially in remote marine locations.
However, Jones adds that, in recent years, there have been numerous amendments to environmental laws aimed at protection to improve environmental management in South Africa.
These include the promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act 24 of 2008 (NEM:ICMA) regarding the management of all aspects of the marine and coastal environment, and amendments to the EIA regulations and listed activities that require environmental authorisation before proceeding with a project.
“Amendments have also been aimed at streamlining authorisation processes and requirements – which can be onerous, costly and time consuming for developers – notably through the recent introduction of the One Environmental System, which aims to facilitate the efficient and parallel processing of various applications required in terms of environmental legislation,” Jones explains.
While some of the regulations are new, it is expected that some amendments might be required over the next few months to smooth out any anomalies, she adds.
Meanwhile, the challenge for environmental assessment practitioners is to ensure that specialist studies undertaken for the EIA are sufficiently robust and detailed to inform the EIA process and provide any information that will assist the relevant authorities in making a decision on an application for a Coastal Waters Discharge Permit in terms of NEM:ICMA, for example.
“The challenge faced by the authorities at this stage is probably capacity building within their departments and increasing resources to allow for efficient decision- making within the timeframes stipulated in the environmental legislation. If timeframes are adhered to, applicants will welcome that certainty,” Jones concludes.