Best Practice Guidelines for Implementing the Mitigation Hierarchy in South Africa
While Africa is currently undergoing a necessary development trajectory, poorly-planned infrastructure projects can have disastrous impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services on which many people rely, and on the economic sustainability of the projects themselves. The mitigation hierarchy is a tool for addressing this problem by requiring that a project’s significant negative environmental impacts are anticipated and sequentially avoided, minimised, rehabilitated, and/or offset.
South Africa’s environmental laws and policies call for a hierarchical approach to impact mitigation. However, it is widely acknowledged that various challenges frequently prevent the aims of the mitigation hierarchy from being achieved in practice. The Endangered Wildlife Trust, BirdLife South Africa and Enviro-Insight are therefore collaborating to develop Best Practice Guidelines for Implementing the Mitigation Hierarchy in South Africa.
These Guidelines will support improved implementation of the mitigation hierarchy by specialists, environmental assessment practitioners and developers. They will also enable competent authorities to better assess adherence to the mitigation hierarchy in projects seeking environmental authorisation, and will assist them in setting robust licencing conditions to ensure that developers can be held accountable for implementing mitigation activities.
The first stage of the project has now been completed, and produced a literature review and a draft guideline framework, which was workshopped with government representatives and South African and foreign experts. The drafting process is now underway, and it is envisaged that a full draft of the Guidelines will be ready for further consultation in early 2021. Once the Guidelines are finalised, a training programme will be undertaken to support their utilisation, and a number of more concise products will be distilled from the Guidelines for individual target audiences.