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Integrated Environmental Management Plan for SKA (Phase 1) Under the Spotlight

December 1, 2020

Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

Amendments to Chapter 2 and Chapter 5 of the Integrated Environmental Management Plan (IEMP) for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) (Phase 1) are on the cards.

The environment, forestry and fisheries department published the proposed amendments in Government Gazette 43944 for comment.

They were drawn up in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.

Amendments to the conditions of exclusion are also proposed.

The IEMP for Phase 1 of the SKA was adopted in March 2019.

The IEMP outlines the environmental principles to be followed in the construction and operation of SKA Phase 1, the environmental monitoring and control activities to be undertaken and the long-term research monitoring programmes to be implemented at the SKA site.

The National Research Foundation was excluded, in terms of section 24(2)(e) of the act, from the requirement to obtain environmental authorisation for activities associated with SKA (Phase 1).

Issues to be taken into account in the revision of Chapters 2 and 5 include the findings of the most recent Radio Frequency Characterisation Reports; the aim of the National Research Foundation to increase the allocation of renewable energy into the energy mix of the SKA (Phase 1); the need to construct a boundary fence access road; increase in the size of the site and to declare the site as the Meerkat National Park with SANPARKS as the appointed Land Management Authority.

Amendments to the construction camp configuration are also proposed in order to mitigate the high radio frequency interference levels in the core area of the SKA.

Comment is invited until 8 January 2021.

Meanwhile, the department recently briefed parliament on Growing the Oceans Economy.

The department pointed out that the Draft Upstream Petroleum Resources Development Bill will be fast-tracked as part of interventions by the mineral resources and energy department post-COVID-19 response.

The draft bill designed to make provision for equitable access to and sustainable development of South Africa’s petroleum resources was published for comment in December 2019.

The draft bill aims to:

• make provision for equitable access to and sustainable development of the nation’s petroleum resources;
• provide for orderly development of petroleum resources, to create an enabling environment for the acceleration of exploration and production of the nation’s petroleum resources, to provide for active State participation in the development of the nation’s petroleum resources;
• provide for black person’s participation in the upstream petroleum sector;
• provide for the establishment of the Petroleum Agency of South Africa as the national regulatory authority for the upstream petroleum sector;
• provide for the objectives and functions of the Agency;
• provide for the constitution of the Board of the Agency, the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, the staff and the finances of the Agency;
• provide for the designation of PetroSA as a National Oil Company; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

The draft bill stipulates that the state has, via PetroSA, a right to a 20 percent carried interest in exploration and production rights.

It also declares that all applications for exploration and production rights must be accompanied by a shareholders’ agreement indicating the State carried interest.

The department also confirmed that further stakeholder engagement on the Draft Aquaculture Amendment Bill is in the pipeline prior to re-tabling in parliament.

A bill was tabled in parliament in 2018 but lapsed at the end of the 5th parliament.

It was revived by the national assembly in March 2020 but was subsequently withdrawn.

The Finalisation of the Draft Oceans Economy Master Plan is also a key priority going forward.

In September 2020, the department pointed out that a discussion document entitled “Towards a South African Oceans Economy Master Plan” had been developed and submitted to the environment, forestry and fisheries minister.

The department added that implementation of priority interventions as per the discussion document had been initiated and are underway.