Choosing an environmental consultant

How to choose an environmental consultant:

* Qualification:

–  Is the consultant registered with the Certification Board for Environmental Assessment Practioners? (Check list).

– Do they have a relevant degree and experience?

* Capacity: Does the consultant have the capacity/time right now to realistically complete your project within your deadlines or are they already over-committed to other projects?

* Location:  Does the consultant know the area in which your project is located?  Have they done work in that area before?  South Africa is a varied country:  Vegetation differs; the environmental authorities in different provinces have different requirements; the public have different concerns.  Local experience is a benefit.  Try to get someone located in the same or an adjacent province to your project.

* Price:  Just choosing the lowest price is risky.  The cost of an Environmental Impact Assessment requires a team of consultants including a coordinating Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) and a number of specialists working as sub-consultants.   Some cut costs by: leaving out specialist studies; appointing lower quality sub-consultants; reducing advertising or time for consulting the public; giving most of the work to a junior  practitioner to do.  The result is that often the project is delayed when authorities or the public demand additional work to be done or appeal the project if their issues are not resolved.  An appeal can delay a project by about 9 months. The costs of project delays and additional work end up costing the client more than a higher initial quote would have cost.  If you wish to minimise the risk of appeals and delays, it is better to spend more and possibly even include review consultants on the team to check the work of the others before submission to authorities.  Tell the EAP consultant whether you are wanting to minimise price or time – and this will help them choose a team and plan a process appropriate for your project.

Trust: A good environmental consultant will tell you at the earliest possible stage if your project is at risk of running into environmental problems – to avoid wasting money on consulting fees on a problem site.  A more experienced consultant will be able to tell you more quickly.  If your project is in a high-risk area, they should advise you to do a low-cost pre-feasibility/ fatal flaw study first.  A poor consultant will tell you only when authorities or the public raise objections.

Who will actually do most of the work: Will most of the work on your project be done by the principal consultant or by another junior?

Project size:  If your project is large scale, has this consultant done anything that big before?  If you project is very small, then a smaller consultant would probably be able to do it more affordably than a large corporate to to lower overhead management costs.

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Parliament calls for comment on the effectiveness of environmental assessment in South Africa

Do you think Environmental Assessment in South Africa is effective or do you think it is just producing a mountain of paper to comply with regulations? We struggle with the irony of some of most comprehensive environmental regulations in the world (and most expensive to comply with), but an environment that nevertheless rapidly degrading.

Parliament is calling for your comment on this issue (see link below). How could it be improved? If you have a an opinion, please email it to Ms Tyhileka Madubela ( by the 12th April 2013

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