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Rules of environmental engagement in the pork industry

By Pieter van der Merwe, Rock Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd
During the previous years, the pork production industry was confronted with stormy winds from different directions. The strength and endurance of the ship was tested in a number of ways and a few lessons were learned in the process of application or authorisation in terms of the National Environmentalå Management Act (Act 107 of 1998).Similar to many matters of national importance in our country today, complying with environmental legislation in the pork production industry went through significant growing pains. In some instances pains of high intensity that could not have been anticipated. In the interactive process between the applicant or farmer and the Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP), a number of challenging waves and storms had to be dealt with to keep the ship afloat and on course.
The sailing piggery ships are experiencing, amongst others, the following types of strong currents and waves:
The time that it takes to get approval from the component environmental authority. It is soon realised by us “stadsjapies” that a serious pig farmer goes through careful and tedious planning linked to definite time frames and schedules to keep his farming practice in the tough market place financially feasible.  Although from the road side, things look very calm with very little struggles and actions.
“The production of pork is not as simple as it looks, Boet” I was once told by a keen farmer.
The farmers probably learned that there are now rules and strict legislation in place to regulate, in simple terms, the environmental quality of their farming enterprise and surroundings. But there must be sympathy towards them in the long waiting period for approvals or response from government. There is hope however in the sense that legislations now stipulate new time frames for response from government.
The farmers learned that the EIA process is comprehensive and tedious. In many cases the farmer has to learn to deal with the concerns of neighbours who are per se also farmers, perhaps just in a different field.
The farmers learned that an Amendment to a Record of Decision (ROD) is also quite a process and would need careful and comprehensive motivation.
The farmers learned that practical environmental management, of which there are now a useful Environmental Management Plan tool available at SAPPO, is indeed important and worth implementing; not only to address environmental problems i.e. pollution, but also to demonstrate that the pork production industry strives and should strive responsibly towards the limitation of any form of environmental pollution. The farmers have learned to check the integrity of the waste water dam walls.
The farmer learned that matters related to water quality management and odour management and pollution of streams have become important issues; even leading to legal threats. This is seen in the light of the right of the neighbours and public to live in a safe and healthy environment, as included in the National Constitution.
But there are also lessons learned and storms to be challenged by the Environmental Assessment Practitioners.
The EAP learned that the EIA process has to be followed absolutely to the book and that there is no or very little margin of error and that reports submitted are scrutinised to the bone.
It has to be said that the EAP has to ensure that the administration of the EIA process runs smoothly and correctly. Typical aspects which can derail the process are:
• Details on the application forms must be absolutely correct
• Incorrect wording of the advertisements and notices to the Interested and Affected Parties, especially in terms of the project title and description
• The EAP must ensure that all the adjacent landowners have been notified and that adjacent landowners, and not tenants, have been notified
• When reports are circulated to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, such documents should “land” on the table of the correct official. At times there are changes in personnel at government departments and the EAP has to check that the review process is indeed progressing within the designated time frame of 30 days.
Recently my office experienced how crucial it is to make frequent follow-up on whether the submitted documentation does reach the official and reach the official in time. The EAP has to embark on regular follow-ups which are unfortunately a time consuming action.
But as we all know, ships are meant for sailing. On dry land ships becomes rotten or rusted. It must remain it the water, sometimes in the calm waters of harbours and sometimes on the open stormy seas. Water keeps wooded ships strong and it’s only by sailing that the product is delivered, perhaps at  far off markets which appear out of reach.
For more information, contact Pieter van der Merwe at 012 997 4742 or 082 421 7571.

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