Quality of Environmental Impact Assessment Reports for Lodge Developments in Protected Areas: The Okavango Delta Case, Botswana


This paper evaluates the quality of environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports for lodge developments in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, which is a wetland of international importance and forms part of a transboundary conservation area and world heritage site. A quality review of 31 EIA reports, approved between 2013 and 2021, was conducted by applying a context specific EIA report quality review package. The review package consists of four review areas with seventeen categories and 64 sub-categories, adapted from similar international packages to address the specific legal requirements for EIA in Botswana as well as best practice.  Results show that the overall quality of the reports are poor, with 71% graded as ‘unsatisfactory’.  In general, descriptive areas of the EIA reports fared better, while the performance of the more analytical areas was ‘poor’.  Key areas of weakness include - the identification of impacts; prediction and assessment of impact magnitude; as well as identifying alternatives and mitigation measures. Overall results suggest that currently EIA report content is insufficient to inform decision-making towards sustainable tourism development in the Okavango Delta. It is recommended that areas of weakness can be addressed by providing clear strategic direction; developing a central data management system; setting norms and standards for tourism development as well as building capacity and awareness of key stakeholders. This will ensure that EIA remains a tool of choice for decision making and avoid becoming a mere ‘red-tape’/administrative process aimed at securing development approvals.



[1] Alberts, R.C., Retief, F.P., Cilliers, D.P., Roos, C. and Hauptfleisch, M. 2021. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) effectiveness in protected areas. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 39(4):290-303. DOI: 10.1080/14615517.2021.1904377
[2] Alberts, R.C., Retief, F.P., Roos, C., Cilliers, D.P. and Arakele, M. 2020. Re-thinking the fundamentals of EIA through the identification of key assumptions for evaluation. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 38(3): 205–213. DOI: 10.1080/14615517.2019.1676069
[3] Alberts, R.C., Retief F.P, Roos C., Cilliers, D.P, Moolman, J., Bowers J., MacGregor S., Hennman-Weir, F. and Olivier, I. 2022. Beyond legal compliance: The environmental performance of luxury safari lodges’, African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, 11(2): 710-726. DOI: 10.46222/ajhtl.19770720.252
[4] Aucamp, I., Retief, F.P. and Sandham, L.A. 2023. Best Practice Public Participation in Africa. In Sinclair, J and Burdett, T. (eds.) Public Participation in Impact Assessment. Edward Elgar, London.
[5] Bond, A., Pope, J., Fundingsland, M., Morrison-Saunders, A., Retief, F. and Hauptfleisch, M. 2020. Explaining the political nature of environmental impact assessment (EIA): A neo-Gramscian perspective. Journal of Cleaner Production, 244:118694. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.118694.
[6] Bond, A., Pope, J., Morrison-Saunders, A. and Retief, F.P. 2022. Exploring the relationship between context and effectiveness in impact assessment’, Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 97 (2022) 106901. DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2022.106901
[7] Cilliers, D., Retief, F.P., Bond, A.J. Roos, C. and Alberts, R.C. 2022. The validity of spatial data based EIA screening decisions’, Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 93, 106729. DOI:10.1016/j.eiar.2021.106729
[8] Claassens, C.E., Cilliers, D.P., Retief, F.P., Roos, C. and Alberts, R.C. 2022. The consideration of waste management in environmental impact assessment (EIA) for developments in protected areas. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 40(4):320-330. DOI: 10.1080/14615517.2022.2080491
[9] Department of Environmental Affairs. 2008. Okavango Delta Management Plan.
[10] Hallatt, T., Retief, F. and Sandham, L.A. 2015. The quality of biodiversity inputs to EIA in areas with high biodiversity value – Experience from the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 17(3):1550025. DOI: 10.1142/S1464333215500258
[11] Keitumetse, S.O., Mwale, K.P., Satau, G., Velempini, K., Baitsiseng, V.O., Ntema, O.P.B.M., Manga, J. and Mogotsi, S.T. 2023. Exploring cultural values of African wetlands for sustainable conservation: Okavango Delta World Heritage Site, Botswana. Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, 13(3): 501-516. DOI: 10.1108/JCHMSD-09-2022-0167
[12] Lee, N., Colley, R., Bonde, J. and Simpson, J. 1999. Reviewing the quality of environmental statements and environmental appraisals’. Occasional paper number 55, EIA Centre, Department of Planning and Landscape, University of Manchester, Manchester.
[13] Li, J. 2023. Research on environmental impact assessment of ecotourism development oriented to cloud model. Applied Mathematics and Nonlinear Sciences. DOI: 10.2478/amns.2023.2.00430
[14] Malepe, K.V., González, A. and Retief, F.P. 2022. Evaluating the quality of Environmental Impact Assessment Reports (EIARs) for tourism developments in protected areas: The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere case study. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 40(5):384-398, DOI: 10.1080/14615517.2022.2091055
[15] Manrai, L.A., Lascu, D. and Manrai, A.K. 2020. A study of safari tourism in sub-Saharan Africa: An empirical test of the A-B-C (T-ABC) model, Journal of Business Research, 119: 639-651. DOI:10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.02.066
[16] Marsden, S. 1998. Importance of context in measuring the effectiveness of strategic environmental assessment', Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 16(4): 255-266. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/14615517.1998.10600136
[17] Matswiri, G.M. 2017. Two in one: explaining the management of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site, Botswana. University of Cape Town.
[18] Mochankana, L., Garekae, H., Bapadile, J. and Mbaiwa, J. 2023. Tourism commodification of traditional basket weaving in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. African Geographical Review, 1-16. DOI:10.1080/19376812.2023.2173260
[19] Morante-Carballo, F., Apolo-Masache, B., Taranto-Moreira, F., Merchán-Sanmartín, B., Soto-Navarrete, L., Herrera-Franco, G. and Carrión-Mero, P., 2023. Geo-Environmental Assessment of Tourist Development and Its Impact on Sustainability. Heritage, 6(3): 2863-2885.
[20] Morrison-Saunders, A. and Retief, F. 2012. Walking the sustainability assessment talk - Progressing the practice of environmental impact assessment (EIA). Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 36:34–41. DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2012.04.001.
[21] Ratsie, M.L., Dipotso, M.F., Kootsositse, M. V. and Senyatso, K.J. 2011. Botswana’s Important Bird Areas. BirdLife Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana.
[22] Retief, F. 2006. The quality and effectiveness of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as a decision-aiding tool for national park expansion—the greater Addo Elephant National Park case study, Koedoe – African Protected Area Conservation and Science, 49(2): 103-122. DOI: 10.4102/koedoe.v49i2.119
[23] Retief, F. 2007. A quality and effectiveness review protocol for Strategic Environmental Assessment in developing countries. Journal of Environmental Assessment, Policy and Management, 9(4):443-471. DOI:10.1142/S1464333207002895
[24] Retief, F. 2010. The evolution of environmental assessment debates: critical perspectives from South Africa. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 12(4):375–397. DOI:10.1142/S146433321000370X
[25] Retief, F. and Chabalala, B. 2009. The cost of environmental impact assessment (EIA) in South Africa. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 11(1):51–68. DOI:10.1142/S1464333209003257
[26] Sadler, B. 1996. Environmental Assessment in a Changing World. Evaluating Practice to Improve Performance. Final Report, International Association for Impact Assessment and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Ottawa.
[27] Saidi, T. A. 2010. Environmental Impact Assessment as a policy tool for integrating environmental concerns in development. AISA Policy Brief Number 19.
[28] Sandbrook, C., Fisher, J.A., Holmes, G., Luque-Lora, R. and Keane, A. 2019. The global conservation movement is diverse but not divided. Nature Sustainability, 2: 316–323. DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0267-5
[29] Sandham, L., Carrol, T and Retief, F. 2010. The contribution of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to decision making for biological pest control in South Africa – the case of Lantana camara, Biological Control, 55: 141-149. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2009.12.010
[30] Sandham, L., Van der Vyver, F., and Retief, F. 2013a. Performance of environmental impact assessment in the explosives manufacturing industry in South Africa, Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 15(3): 1-18. DOI: 10.1142/S1464333213500130
[31] Sandham, L.A., Heerden, A.J., Jones, C.E., Retief, F.P. and Morrison-Saunders, A.N. 2013b. Does enhanced regulation improve EIA report quality? Lessons from South Africa. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 38:155–162. DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2012.08.001
[32] Sandham, L.A., Huysamen, C., Retief, F.P., Morrison-Saunders, A., Bond, A.J., Pope, J. and Alberts, R.C. 2020. Evaluating Environmental Impact Assessment report quality in South African national parks. Koedoe: African Protected Area Conservation and Science, 62(1):a1631. DOI: 10.4102/koedoe.v62i1.1631
[33] Sandham, L., Hoffman, A and Retief, F. 2008a. Reflections on the quality of mining EIA reports in South-Africa, The Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 108: 701-706.
[34] Sandham, L.A., Moloto, M.J. and Retief, F.P. 2008b. The quality of environmental impact reports for projects with the potential of affecting wetlands in South Africa. Water SA, 34(2): 155–162. DOI: 10520/EJC116523
[35] Sandham, L.A. and Pretorius, H.M. 2008. A review of EIA report quality in the North-West province of South Africa. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 28(4–5): 229–240. DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2007.07.002
[36] Sandham, L., Retief, F. and Alberts, R. 2022. EIA best practice in Africa. In Handbook of Environmental Impact Assessment. A. Fonseca, Ed. London: Edward Elgar. 320–336.
[37] Segosebe, E.M. 2020. The Development of the Environmental Impact Assessment Process in Botswana. In Developing Eco-Cities Through Policy, Planning, and Innovation: Can It Really Work? IGI Global. 48–61.
[38] Spenceley, A. 2003. Managing sustainable nature-based tourism in southern Africa: A practical assessment tool in southern Africa. PhD thesis, University for Greenwich, United Kingdom
[39] Swanepoel, F., Retief, F., Bond, A., Pope, J., Morrison-Saunders, A., Hauptfleisch, M. and Fundingsland, M. 2019. Explanations for the quality of biodiversity inputs to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in areas with high biodiversity value. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 21(2):1950009. DOI: 10.1142/S1464333219500091.
[40] Tshwene-Mauchaza, B. 2013. Major Constraints of the Environmental Impact Assessment Process in Botswana. SAIIA Policy Briefing 145.
[41] Wylie, D.K., Bhattacharjee, S. and Rampedi, I.T. 2018. Evaluating the quality of environmental impact reporting for proposed tourism-related infrastructure in the protected areas of South Africa: A case study on selected EIA reports. African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, 7(3): 1–14.
[42] Yan, B.,2023. On the Current Situation and Improvement of the Legislation of Nature Reserves in China. Academic Journal of Management and Social Sciences, 3(2): 149-152. DOI: 10.54097/ajmss.v3i2.10395.
[43] Zaini, A.A., Noor, M.I.M., Ahmad, B.E. and Mustafa, A.M.A.A. 2023. Environmental Impact Assessment of Tourism Development in Marine Protected Areas: A Case Study of Tioman Island Marine Park. Bioresources and Environment, 1(1): 32-49. https://bioenvuitm.com/index.php/en/article/view/22
[44] Ramsar Secretariat. 1997. Impact assessment: Guidelines for incorporating biodiversity-related issues into environmental impact assessment legislation and/or processes and in strategic environmental assessment. In Ramsar Handbooks for the Wise Use of Wetlands (3rd ed, Vol. 13). Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Gland, Switzerland.
[45] Republic of Botswana. 1992. Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act (CAP. 38:03).
[46] Republic of Botswana. 2012. Environmental Assessment Regulations No 58 of 2012 (CAP. V. 65. Gaborone: SI). Government Printers.
How to Cite
LEEPILE, Leungo Boikanyo L. et al. Quality of Environmental Impact Assessment Reports for Lodge Developments in Protected Areas: The Okavango Delta Case, Botswana. Journal of Environmental Management and Tourism, [S.l.], v. 14, n. 7, p. 2880 - 2893, dec. 2023. ISSN 2068-7729. Available at: <https://journals.aserspublishing.eu/jemt/article/view/8240>. Date accessed: 17 june 2024. doi: https://doi.org/10.14505/jemt.v14.7(71).06.