Monday, August 20, 2007

South African Environmental Affairs at Risk of being Sidelined

South African Environmental Affairs at Risk of being Sidelined

There are fears that the mining ministry’s decision to call the legal shorts on all future environmental mining disputes – thus sidelining National Environmental Department – will encourage other government departments to follow suit and set up their own in-house environment branches to approve anything from nuclear power stations to airports or major toll roads.

A report in The Mercury says the move has also heightened fears that final decisions to mine the Wild Coast and other ecologically sensitive areas will be handed exclusively to the Department of Minerals and Energy.

However, Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete, has been asked to intervene urgently following attempts by the mining department to ‘smuggle’ a controversial law amendment, which would exempt mining activity from safeguards in the National Environmental Management Act, through Parliament.

Durban environmental law specialist Jeremy Ridl said at the weekend he was becoming increasingly ‘uneasy’ about the future of environmental protection laws in the light of several statements made by President Thabo Mbeki, KZN Premier S’bu Ndebele and other senior members critical of environmental impact assessment laws. Ridl said SA had enacted some of the best environmental laws in the world over the past 10 years but he feared they might not be secure.

Full report in The Mercury (subscription needed)


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