Public Participation is one of the most important aspects of environmental authorisation, licences and permit processes. It is a requirement in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Act No. 107 of 1998) (NEMA) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations of 4 December 2014 (as amended). This stems from the requirement that people have the right to be informed about potential decisions that may affect them, and that they must be afforded an opportunity to influence those decisions. Effective public participation improves the ability of competent authorities to make informed decisions and result in improved decision-making as the views of all parties are considered.
The Public Participation Process:
- Provides an opportunity for interested and affected parties (I&APs) to obtain clear, accurate and comprehensive information about proposed activities, alternatives considered, environmental impacts thereof and/or decisions made about applications;
- Provides I&APs with an opportunity to indicate their viewpoints, issues and concerns regarding activities, alternatives, environmental impacts and/or the decisions;
- Provides I&APs with the opportunity of suggesting ways of avoiding, reducing or mitigating negative impacts of an activity and for enhancing positive impacts;
- Enables an Applicant for environmental authorisation, licences or permits to incorporate the preferences and values of the I&APs into planned activities where feasible;
- Provides opportunities to avoid disputes, to resolve disputes that do arise, and to reconcile conflicting interests;
- Enhances transparency and accountability in decision-making.