The Integrated Environmental Management Plan (IEMP) for the SKA Phase 1 mid-frequency array (SKA1_MID) was the outcome of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) (this has since been superseded by the IEMP Revision 1 – described below) .
The SKA1_MID IEMP provided a consolidated management plan including the minimum requirements for the construction and operation phases of the SKA1_MID, including: the environmental principles to be adopted, the environmental monitoring and control activities, as well as the long-term research monitoring programmes to be implemented on the SKA site in the Karoo.
In accordance with Government Notice No. 436 published in Government Gazette No. 42323 on 22 March 2019 (exclusion Notice of 2019) the IEMP was formally adopted as an environmental management instrument for SKA1_MID.
The Notice of adoption:
- excludes, in terms of section 24(2)(e) of the National Environmental Management Act (Act No. 107 of 1998), the National Research Foundation from the requirement to obtain environmental authorisation for the SKA1_MID development in South Africa as described in Chapter 2 (project scope) of the IEMP, inclusive of all activities identified in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Act No. 107 of 1998) necessary for the realisation of such development;
- requires the NRF to comply with chapter 5 (environmental management programme) of the IEMP for SKA1_MID in South
The IEMP for SKA1_MID superseded the Environmental authorisations obtained for the previously authorised KAT 7 and MeerKAT projects (MeerKAT and KAT 7 Environmental Authorisations).
Since the formal adoption of the IEMP on 22 March 2019 the SARAO have worked to adhere to and address the conditions of exclusion listed in Government Notice No. 436 in Government Gazette No. 42323, including:
- Undertaking ecological, terrestrial and heritage specialist walkthroughs of the site prior to the start of construction to confirm the final development footprint and to confirm areas unsuitable for development; and
- Preparing a map signed off by specialists which consolidates areas for unsuitable development and overlays the final proposed development to confirm that no development will take place in these areas.
The findings from the additional specialist walkthroughs together with new information affecting the SKA1_MID project scope have led to a need to amend the Chapter 2: Project scope and Chapter 5: EMPr of the IEMP. The new information included:
- Findings from the specialist walkthrough studies (ecology, aquatic, bat and heritage) undertaken;
- SANParks having been appointed as the Land Management Authority of the SKA1_MID core area.
- The SKA1_MID core area having been formally declared as the MeerKAT National Park;
- Detailed radio frequency interference (RFI) risk assessments that have been undertaken by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) of the proposed Construction Camps for SKA1_MID; and
- The SKAO will be entering into a Power Purchase Agreement with an Independent Power Producer (IPP) to design, construct and operate a centralized photovoltaic (PV) plant on site.
To account for these amendments to the IEMP, The IEMP for the SKA (Phase 1) Revision 1 document was drafted. This draft document was published on the SARAO website for access and comment by Interested and Affected Parties (I&APs) in line with the requirements in Government Notice No. 1271 published in Government Gazette No. 43944.
Following the commenting period and process, the Integrated Environmental Management Plan (IEMP) for the SKA Phase 1 Mid-Frequency Array (SKA1_MID) in South Africa Revision 1 has been formally accepted in accordance with Government Notice No. 250 published in Government Gazette No. 44320, published on the 25th of March 2021, and as such supersedes the previous version of the IEMP as an environmental management instrument for SKA1_MID.
In accordance with Government Notice No. 250 in Government Gazette No. 44320 “The revised IEMP for the SKA (Phase 1) is called the IEMP for the SKA (Phase 1) Revision 1 and replaces the IEMP as adopted in the Exclusion Notice of 2019 from the date of publication in the Government Gazette.”
The new Notice of March 2021 includes additional conditions of exclusion and amendment to those included in the exclusion notice of 2019 (Government Notice No. 436 published in Government Gazette No. 42323), including:
In addition to the conditions contained in section 4 of the Exclusion Notice of 2019, the following conditions are added:
- (Condition 4.1.1A) The National Research Foundation may not develop any infrastructure:
- exceeding the 15 hectares which has been identified as the “limits of acceptable change” in areas with a very high ecological sensitivity and mapped as “ecological areas unsuitable for development”; and
- other than linear infrastructure in areas with a very high aquatic sensitivity and mapped as “aquatic areas unsuitable for development”
- Condition 188.8.131.52 of the Exclusion Notice of 2019 is amended by the insertion at the end of the condition of the words “other than development contemplated in condition 4.1.1A”