Discover more from Advocate Kuben Samie's Newsletter
SEVEN QUALITIES OF A GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PRACTITIONER
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN EAP
The Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) plays a crucial role in the entire EIA process. The legitimacy, correctness and success of the EIA process, rests on the shoulders of the EAP.
The EAP must ensure that he or she meets the expectations of the client, as well as those of the competent authority and the various stakeholders. It is not an easy job trying to please everyone!
If you are looking to engage the services of an EAP, here are 7 important qualities you should be looking for.
Ability to communicate effectively
The EAP must be a good communicator. Dealing with the client, project team, the competent authority and various stakeholders means that the EAP must be able to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders.
Not all stakeholders are environmentalists, so there is little room for miscommunication, misinterpretation, and confusion.
The EAP must be able to elicit the required information, analyse and process it, and communicate the results to the client, the competent authority, and to various other stakeholders.
Ideally, this should be done with the least amount of legal or technical jargon.
The EAP must be able to communicate effectively with the competent authority. Since the EAP functions in certain respects as a representative of the client, she is frequently involved in pre-application consultations with the competent authority, as well as other engagements aimed at seeking clarity on the EIA or even the screening process.
Knowledge and experience
The EAP should have a fairly good working knowledge and understanding of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) and the EIA Regulations inclusive of the various listing notices.
Knowing the listing notices and regulations verbatim is not a pre-requisite but knowing where to look for information or a specific regulation would be advantageous.
Generally, all project proposals need to be screened against the three listing notices under NEMA. Therefore, an EAP needs to be fairly familiar with the listing notices and must know how to interpret and apply the provisions to a particular development proposal.
Expertise in conducting environmental impact assessments is a must.
Knowing what the potential impacts of an activity could be, can assist the EAP in identifying what specialist assessments would be required during the EIA process.
Ability to interpret and apply policy and legislation
Knowing how to read, interpret and apply law in general and environmental law in particular would be an asset to any environmental practitioner.
Importantly, an environmental practitioner should be able to interpret and apply environmental law and specifically the EIA Regulations in a purposeful manner.
This means being able to interpret the legislation by having reference to NEMA and its purpose and objectives, and most importantly, the NEMA Principles as contained in s2 of the Act. The NEMA principles lay down the framework for interpretation and administration of the Act.
The EAP must be able to apply the Act and the Regulations to the facts elicited during the screening process. He or she must be able to advise the client on the applicability of the Regulations to the proposed activity.
The EAP must be able to identify all the applicable listed activities pertaining to the proposed activity.
Ability to use and interpret GIS
A knowledge of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and the ability to use and manipulate GIS is particularly important for the EAP to conduct a desktop investigation of the receiving environment.
The ability to read and interpret a wide spectrum of maps, aerial photography and diagrams would be an asset to an EAP.
This talent will come in handy if the EAP is tasked with working with and part of a multi-disciplinary team. The ability to interpret these drawings and maps in relation to the site, particularly while on a site inspection, is an added advantage.
Attention to detail
An EAP involved in environmental impact assessments must be able to pay attention to detail and read and interpret copious amounts of information during a short space of time.
In simple terms, the EAP must be a speed reader!
In addition, the EAP should be able to quickly scan through project plans, designs and aerial photography, while identifying critical areas and aspects of the proposed development.
Ability to conduct a holistic assessment
The EAP should be able to put everything together in the final analysis.
This means considering all aspects of the proposed activity as well as all attributes of the receiving environment together with all related factors during the EIA process.
Importantly the EAP should be able to communicate the result of this holistic environmental assessment process to the client, the competent authority and interested and affected parties.
This means being able to professionally analyse the social, economic and environmental consequences of a proposed activity or development.
Ethics and professional integrity
The competency of an EAP, not only rests on the technical skills and experience of the EAP but also on the practitioner’s professional integrity.
As an environmental practitioner, ethics and integrity is everything.
The EAP must be able to balance the need to act in the best interests of his client and the need to uphold the integrity of the environmental profession.
This includes strict adherance to the applicable code(s) of conduct.