A day in the life of an environmental officer

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Zamalanga Langa
Zamalanga Langa
Supplied/ Zamalanga Langa

What is your job?

I am currently working as an environmental officer: specialised production at the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, formerly known as Department of Environmental Affairs.

Describe a typical day at work.

I process Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports. EIA is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, considering inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human health impacts, both beneficial and adverse. 

For every development that takes place and is deemed to have the potential to have significant impact of the natural environment, an EIA must be conducted in line with the applicable legislation, policies and regulations. These documents are then submitted to the department for approval.

Everything that I do involves projects. I process and review the documents and issue what is called an Environmental Authorisation. So, a typical day for me involves reading, reviewing and making comments on reports. I also write reports and have meetings to discuss projects.

I do site visits as well to ensure the information I receive in the reports/documents is what is onsite.

How did you qualify for your position? 

I hold certificates in environmental law, integrated waste management, environmental management systems, environmental management systems auditing and environmental impact assessment from North West University. I also have a geographic information system certificate from Esri .

What other skills do you need in your job? 

The skills required in my job are basic computer skills, report writing, problem solving, stakeholder engagements and a good understating of environmental management legislations.

Report writing is an important skill because you need to explain what happens on the site and what your findings were.

Part of the job is having meetings and site visits, which means you’re are engaging with different types of people and it’s important to know how to communicate with different stakeholders and understand where they are coming from.

You must also know the related legislation and law so you know what to do and what not to do.

How did you find your job?

I saw a vacant post for an environmental officer at the department. I met the requirements and applied and was shortlisted to attend an interview. A month later, I got the job.

Why did you choose this job?

I’ve always been someone who loves being in nature and I want to ensure it is protected for our future generations as well.

What is the best thing about your job?

I work in a national department, so I get to travel all over the country for project-related meetings and conferences. The travelling and meeting different types of people are the best parts.

I also do a lot of work in protected areas, so I get to see the best of this country’s natural environment. 

What is the worst thing about your job?

Some consider EIAs as things that hold back or hinder development, so people will often make it very difficult for me to do my job. Social issues, such as poverty, often mean people would rather have a development that creates employment rather than protect an indigenous forest, for example.

Would you recommend your job to others?

If you are passionate about the environment and preserving it, it’s a very fulfilling job. It’s exciting because you get to work with different types of people on different types of projects to ensure the environment is protected, and you really never stop learning and growing – there’s something new to discover all the time.

 

What does the future hold?

Environmental management is a vast career with many opportunities. Currently what I do is highly specialised, but it does not stop me from working in others spheres of government or even going to the private sector.

I’d recommend looking at going into the business side of environmental management rather than working as a civil servant. I feel that part or the market is still open, especially for young minds with fresh ideas in areas such as waste management.

It’s important to study further, as new ideas and ways of doing things are discovered daily.

Salary

The salary can range from R400 000 to about R450 000 per annum.

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