The emperor's new clothes : reflections on strategic environmental assessment (SEA) practice in South Africa

RETIEF, Francois, JONES, Carys and JAY, Stephen A (2008). The emperor's new clothes : reflections on strategic environmental assessment (SEA) practice in South Africa. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 28 (7), 504-514.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2007.07.004
Link to published version:: 10.1016/j.eiar.2007.07.004

Abstract

This paper presents the results of research which evaluated the performance of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) practice in South Africa in order to develop understanding of how SEA functions within a developing country with a voluntary SEA system. The research applied a combination of methods in a mixed research strategy, including a macro level survey of the SEA system together with case study reviews exploring micro level application. Three main 'system features' emerged, namely expansion of voluntary practice, diversity in practice and general ineffectiveness. The results also highlight a number of 'application features' such as a lack of focus due to an inability to deal with the concepts of 'sustainability' and 'significance', as well as poor understanding and integration with decision-making processes. Moreover, it emerged that none of the case studies seem to have conducted an 'assessment' per se, but rather provided a framework for strategic decision-making. The paper puts forward a number of interrelated explanations for these system and application features. In a parallel to the fable of the 'emperor's new clothes', SEA in South Africa appears to be regarded as the answer to all environmental problems, whilst being ineffective in practice.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Built Environment Division Research Group
Identification Number: 10.1016/j.eiar.2007.07.004
Depositing User: Hilary Ridgway
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2012 10:19
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2013 17:15
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/4809

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