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Searching for common ground, a scientific approach to subjective environmental impact assessments: an example from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

J.G. Castley, H. Bezuidenhout, M.H. Knight

Koedoe; Vol 46, No 1 (2003), 107-115. doi: 10.4102/koedoe.v46i1.36

Submitted: 17 December 2003
Published:  17 December 2003


In order to break away from the frequent subjective nature of assessing potential environmental impacts and alternative scenarios when undertaking new developments a structured scientific approach was adopted in the present analysis. An assessment of the proposed upgrading of a 31-km stretch of road between Leeudril and Kij-Kij waterholes on the dry Nossob River in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) was undertaken. Relocation of the existing road was proposed as an alternative to upgrading the road as the potential and future impacts on the riverbed ecosystem could be reduced. A systematic assessment of biophysical variables within the riverbed habitat was made. A multivariate clustering analysis revealed a high level of congruency with a purely subjective assessment that potentially supports an “apples and oranges” comparison of such approaches in environmental assessments. Furthermore, the present and potential environmental impacts of each of the various upgrading options were compared. Significant environmental impacts were envisaged when considering surface and ground water hydrology, flora and the sensitive nature of the landscape. Given the requirements of the park in terms of providing a tourism product the preferred action in terms of upgrading the road would require a compromise between ecological and aesthetic requirements in order to provide reasonable tourism opportunities. The scientific approach adopted in the current analysis appears to offer a more defendable result upon which management decisions can be based compared to purely subjective assessments but is not without limitations.

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Author affiliations

J.G. Castley, South African National Parks, South Africa
H. Bezuidenhout, South African National Parks,, South Africa
M.H. Knight, South African National Parks, South Africa


Environmental impact assessments; Kalahari; Dry riverbed; Road


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ISSN: 0075-6458 (print) | ISSN: 2071-0771 (online)

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