The International Association for Impact Assessment–South African Affiliate (IAIAsa) recently spotlighted Integrated
Environmental Management (IEM) during its annual conference, emphasising the critical importance of a holistic approach to environmental protection and management. Held at the heart of Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, under the theme “IEM in the Roaring 2020s”, this gathering attracted thought leaders and stakeholders deeply vested in the environment.
This year, TCTA Project Management and Implementation Division (PMID) colleagues delivered several presentations, showcased a poster display and chaired a session. The first evening kicked off with a “meet and greet” event and a poster display. Thabile Zwane, the intern working with Environmental Manager Gwen Gosney, displayed confidence and enthusiasm for her work on TCTA’s Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS). This poster captivated the attention of many conference attendees and Zwane must be commended for her ability to answer questions, including some challenging ones posed by interested attendees.
Dr. Thato Shale, PMID’s Social Specialist, was given the prestigious role of session chair and she expertly facilitated a
session on “Public Participation Processes”. It was one of the few sessions that started and ended on time.
Shaun Davis, in collaboration with his environmental consultant Deon Esterhuizen, presented a paper titled “Challenges Facing the Implementation of a Multi-Billion-Rand Linear Project Spread Over a Decade”. This paper was well received as it provided insight into project implementation.
James Nyakale, Project Manager, and this writer, Kogi Naidoo, Environmental Manager, co-authored a presentation titled “Mooi-Mgeni Water Transfer Scheme-Phase 2 (MMTS-2): Biodiversity Offsets–Lessons from Practice”. Naidoo presented this at the conference. The paper delved into the challenges their team encountered in obtaining biodiversity offsets for the yet-to-be-completed MMTS-2 project. The National Biodiversity Offset Guideline was released in June 2023. At the conference, numerous attendees expressed concerns that biodiversity offsets might be perceived as a ‘free pass’ for developers.
The TCTA presentation emphasised that biodiversity offsets are a long-term commitment, rather than an ‘easy solution’. It was heartening to observe that the recommendations TCTA put forth in 2012 to the authorities and the MMTS-2 Biodiversity Offsets Working Group have gained momentum. Initially dismissed, these suggestions, which centred on enlarging protected areas to fulfil offset requirements, are now seen as feasible strategies for implementing biodiversity offsets.
Lastly, Gosney, the Environmental Manager in charge of TCTA’s ESMS, presented on a topic that she is very passionate about, “Green Growth for Accelerated Change”. Her presentation shared insights from the Danish International Development Agency-funded Green Growth, Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change conference in which she took part. These lessons can be applied within a project context, but also broadly within South Africa. Gosney’s presentation garnered much praise, which resulted in her being invited to sit on the panel to give closing remarks to all conference attendees.
The IAIAsa annual national conference took place from 22 to 25 August 2023 and was a success, with many opportunities for shared learning and experiences. As always, TCTA had much to offer in terms of project implementation experience and challenges faced in implementing large infrastructure projects.