The integration of strategic environmental assessments with the integrated development planning process
Since the first living forms emerged miraculously from earth's cloak of gas millions of years ago, the planet has maintained a capacity to support life in a myriad of ever changing forms. Among all the species that have evolved during the earth's long history, modem people have been the most successful. This resulted in a drastic increase in human population. In the second half of the 20th century the relationship between human beings. and their environment has become the topic of widespread concern. It is now universally accepted that, according to present trends, we must expect the world, and South Africa, to become more crowded, more polluted, less ecologically stable and more vulnerable to natural hazards in the years ahead. There are two components to environmental deterioration. One is the depletion of essential resources for the maintenance of present-day life styles. The other is the deterioration and destruction of natural processes which ultimately sustain life on earth. South Africa is a unique country with unique problems. It has a developed, or First World, component which has been responsible for some terrible environmental degradation. It also has a developing, or Third World, component which has a dire need for socio-economic development. This implies the need for sustainable development. Sustainable development means improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity. It is universally recognised that sustainable development should occur at local level, which in turn could contribute, to the global healthy state of the environment. The dire need for development among underdeveloped communities and the lack of capacity (financially and administratively) among existing municipalities in the new dispensation resulted in the introduction of Integrated Development Planning. The Integrated Development Planning process is a strategic decision-making tool that assists local authorities in fulfilling their development mandate given by the new constitution. In general, Integrate Development Plans tend to focus on socio-economic development tied to a spatial development framework. A need to ensure sustainable development therefore exists within Integrated Development Planning. Strategic Environmental Assessments could be used as a means III achieving sustainable development. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is an Integrated Environmental Management (lEM) strategic decision-making support tool that proactively considers the opportunities and constraints the environment places on development. By integrating a Strategic Environmental Assessment with the Integrated Development Planning process sustainable development can be ensured. The means to integrate the two processes, theoretically as well as practically, poses a challenge for environmental managers and planners in South Africa. The aim of this study is to provide some guidelines in achieving the successful integration of Strategic Environmental Assessment as a component of the Integrated Development Planning process. This will be achieved by integrating the elements of a Strategic Environmental Assessment into the various phases of Integrated Development Planning process. The Integrated Development Planning process involves one process with many products, one of which is a Strategic Environmental Assessment.