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Types of Environmental Law


- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - June 2019

South Africa has an incredibly comprehensive set of environmental laws, starting at the top with the supreme law of the land – The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 106 of 1996, which firmly entrenches the right of every citizen to an environment that is not harmful to anyone’s health and well-being. With the constitution guaranteeing this right, it makes sense that many types of legislation have come into effect as a result in order to protect this right.

Therefore the government and other lawmakers have a duty to:

  • Ensure the prevention of pollution and ecological degradation
  • Create an ecologically sustainable environment
  • Ensure the promotion of conservation
  • Toe the line between the use of natural resources as well as economic development

One of the primary pieces of legislation that deals with environmental law can be found in the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998. Herein a framework is established that secures the right we mentioned above, as well as ensuring that South Africa is up to standard with international environmental regulations.

Under that, we also find an impressive list of statutes that ensure environmental law remains well regulated and implemented in South Africa. Let’s take a look at a few below:

  • Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989
  • National Water Act 36 of 1998
  • Air Quality Act 39 of 2004
  • Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004
  • Integrated Coastal Management Act 24 of 2008

Environmental law finds itself present in most industries of South Africa, and most day to day lives of South Africans. Remember that we have to pay for plastic packages (if you’re not using a reusable bag) at retailers? That is a result of environmental law – as this regulation was put in place to curb the harmful use of single-use plastics. In fact, South Africa was quite ahead of the curve on that one, imposing the plastic bag tax long before ditching plastic became trendy.

Lastly, the law also makes way for regulators who can help enforce environmental laws in South Africa. These regulators are in place to assist the government when making decisions that could impact the environment, whilst also keeping a firm eye on the industrial and manufacturing industries. These regulators include:

  • The Department of Environmental Affairs
  • The Department of Mineral Resources
  • The Department of Water and Sanitation

If you require any advice regarding the types of environmental law found in South Africa, do not hesitate to send us a query and will revert your query to an environmental lawyer able to assist.

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