SSAG student conference at UFH 2014

C HansenMs C Hansen
Department of Geography, Rhodes University, 2013 Bronze medal winner (Best Masters by Research Dissertation)

Christel Hansen is currently reading for her PhD at Rhodes University on diurnal frost environments in high altitude and high latitude environments that include continental Antarctica, Marion Island and the High Drakensberg. Her MSc, for which she was awarded the SSAG Bronze Medal, was the first study of an openwork block deposit on the Antarctic continent and has offered new insights into blockfield origin and morphology. The fieldwork for her research was conducted under trying Antarctic conditions, mostly without supervision. With a family farm in the Beautiful Namibian Naukluft Mountains, where she spent much of her youth, it is little wonder that she has a passion for working in remote environments. Christel has been to the Antarctic three times and this year she had her first research trip to Sub-Antarctic Marion Island. On her previous visit to southernmost continent, during the 2013/14 Austral Summer, Christel was appointed leader of a team of four researchers who were part of the South African National Antarctic Programme project on Landscape Processes in Antarctic Ecosystems.

Christel has attained consistently high results throughout her academic career, her MSc from Rhodes University, as well as her previous degrees, a BSc in Geoinformatics and a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Analysis and Management at the University of Pretoria, were all awarded with distinction. In addition to all her academic achievements, Christel is a registered GIS practitioner and, as an emerging researcher, she is an official South African delegate to the SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) Meeting in New Zealand in August and September this year. Part of her responsibilities with research in the Antarctic are that of mentor and tutor to other students; there can be no better role model for them.


NicholasNicholas Simpson
Department of Environmental and Geographic Science
(UCT MPhil 2013)

Effective EIA Public Participation in the Western Cape, South Africa: Stakeholders’ opinions of the participation process and the skills and capacities needed to realise NEMA-required effective participation.

Abstract of Thesis

Public participation is an integral part of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and as such, has been incorporated into regulatory norms. Assessment of the effectiveness of public participation has remained elusive however. This is partly due to the difficulty in identifying appropriate effectiveness criteria. This research uses Q methodology to discover and analyze stakeholder’s social perspectives of the effectiveness of EIAs in the Western Cape, South Africa. It considers two case studies (Main Road and Saldanha Bay EIAs) for contextual participant perspectives of the effectiveness based on their experience. It further considers the more general opinion of provincial consent regulator staff at the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Planning (DEA&DP). Two main themes of investigation are drawn from the South African National Environmental Management Act imperative for effectiveness: firstly, the participation procedure, and secondly, the stakeholder capabilities necessary for effective participation. Four theoretical frameworks drawn from planning, politics and EIA theory are adapted to public participation and used to triangulate the analysis and discussion of the revealed social perspectives. They consider citizen power in deliberation, Habermas’ preconditions for the Ideal Speech Situation (ISS), a Foucauldian perspective of knowledge, power and politics, and a Capabilities Approach to public participation effectiveness. The empirical evidence from this research shows that the capacity and contextual constraints faced by participants demand the legislative imperatives for effective participation set out in the NEMA. The implementation of effective public participation has been shown to be a complex, dynamic and sometimes nebulous practice. The functional level of participant understanding of the process was found to be significantly wide-ranging with consequences of unequal and dissatisfied stakeholder engagements. Furthermore, the considerable variance of stakeholder capabilities in the South African social context, resulted in inequalities in deliberation. The social perspectives revealed significant differences in participant experience in terms of citizen power in deliberation. The ISS preconditions are highly contested in both the Saldanha EIA case study and the DEA&DP social perspectives. Only one Main Road EIA case study social perspective considered Foucault’s notion of governmentality as a reality in EIA public participation. The freedom of control of ones environment, based on a Capabilities approach, is a highly contested notion. Although agreed with in principle, all of the social perspectives indicate that contextual and capacity realities constrain its realisation.  This research has shown that Q method can be applied to EIA public participation in South Africa and, with the appropriate research or monitoring applications it could serve as a useful feedback tool to inform best practice public participation.