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Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

( Article Type: Explanation )

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is an environmental assessment that is carried out on one or more strategic actions, policies, plans or programmes. Whereas an EIA studies a physical project, the SEA looks at policies, plans, ideas and programmes, which are more difficult ‘to touch and feel’. A SEA is an important tool because it helps planners understand what will happen to an area if there are different land uses. It will try to provide information and analysis on the consequences of different actions and their environmental impacts in the short, medium and long term. It is a new environmental planning tool in South Africa and has not yet been used very widely.

Although not required by law in South Africa, a number of SEAs have been carried out (e.g. for the Cape Town 2004 Olympic Bid, and as a part of the Assessment of Water uses, in particular with respect to forestry). It has already been stated that SEAs will be needed in conjunction with the Land Development Objectives in terms of the Development Facilitation Act, Environmental Implementation Plans in terms of the National Environmental Management Act and Integrated Development Plans in terms of the Local Government Transition Act. A copy of a guide to Strategic Environmental Assessment in South Africa can be found on the website