Environmental assessment and management

An environmental assessment is an assessment of the environmental consequences of a plan, policy, project or programme and is conducted prior to the decision of whether to proceed with the proposed action. Such assessments determine the effects of, for example, new development programmes on the biophysical and socio-economic environment.

With a track record spanning 18 countries in Africa over more than 25 years, the CSIR specialises in conducting complex environmental studies in challenging environments as well as environmental studies for emerging and innovative technologies, drawing on research and applied scientific expertise within the organisation. The role of the CSIR is to provide information to enable responsible decision-making in order to understand the effects or risks of a proposed policy or programme.

In conducting these assessments, the CSIR engages with experts from a wide range of disciplines and brings together a variety of stakeholders in a participatory transparent process. This allows for a holistic approach, whereby a range of views and concerns are recorded and considered to provide a scientifically robust assessment of potential risks and opportunities.

Environmental services provided by the CSIR include strategic environmental assessments, environmental impact assessments, environmental screening studies, environmental management plans, sustainability assessments, state of environment reporting, best-practice guidelines, oil-spill response planning, independent review processes, training and capacity building and environmental due diligence studies. These services are provided to governments, international agencies, private sector companies and non-government organisations in Africa.

The CSIR’s environmental management services group comprises 20 environmental assessment practitioners, mostly with Master’s level qualifications and professional accreditation with bodies such as the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions and skills that span the disciplines of ecology, conservation planning, soil science, environmental management, planning and engineering. The team is located at the CSIR offices in Stellenbosch and Durban.    

In the past five years, the team has conducted strategic environmental assessments for the South African government to facilitate the effective and efficient implementation of the Strategic Integrated Projects that support the National Development Plan for South Africa. These assessments include renewable energy (wind and solar photovoltaic), electricity grid infrastructure, shale gas development in the Karoo, Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope in the Karoo, and aquaculture development for freshwater and marine species.