INTRODUCTION Sustainable development has been defined in various terms in South Africa, and the most used one is the definition derived from the Bruntland report, 1987 and it is also used in the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) 107 of 1998 that states that sustainable development is the integration of social, environmental and economic factors into planning, implementation and decision making so as to ensure that development serves present and future generations, (NEMA, 1998). There are three major dimensions to sustainable development which are society, environment and economy aspects, whereas sustainability is a paradigm for thinking about the future in which environmental, societal and economic considerations are balanced in the pursuit of an improved quality of life (UNESCO, 2001). The ideals and principles behind sustainability include broad concepts such as intergenerational equity, gender equity, social tolerance, poverty alleviation, environmental preservation and restoration, natural resource conservation, and building just and peaceful societies. Sustainability is a long-term approach and whereas sustainable development is often evaluated at project or rather developmental level (UNESCO, 2001).
In South Africa, pre 1973, the policy developmental process for the environmental issues was formulated by the Planning Advisory Council and environmental management issues were facilitated by the Department of Planning. In 1973, the department expanded to be the Department of Planning and Environment and which later changed to the Department of Planning and Energy in 1979. In 1980, the Department of Water Affairs, Forestry and Environmental Conservation was then formed which later became the Department of Environmental and Water Affairs and thou it was an independent department, other environmental issues were still managed by other departments such as the land use and planning. During 1975, a non-statutory South African committee on Environmental Conservation was formed to advise the cabinet committee until the early 1980’s. Two years later, in 1982, statutory council was established when the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1982 was promulgated which seven years later was succeeded by the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989. The EIA regulations were part of ECA, 1989, but were not compulsory to any activity, but voluntary. These regulations were only compulsory and legislated in the promulgation of NEMA referring to EIA regulations in the ECA for listed activities.
Globally, in 1992, the United Nations (UN) conference on Environmental and Development was held in Rio De Janero in an attempt to achieve sustainable development internationally and also to influence policy making that would ultimately reinforce sustainable development (Agenda 21, 1992). The Rio Declaration report in the environment and development contained 27 principles of sustainability, which included the following:
(1) People are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature; (2) The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations; (3) Eradicating poverty and reducing disparities in living standards in different parts of the world are essential to sustainable development; (4) Environmental protection is an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it; (5) International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries;(6) To achieve sustainable...