CITY HALL GIVEN WIDE ENVIRONMENTAL POWERS
NEW CHANGES TO ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS IN SOUTH AFRICA
One of the most significant and welcome changes to our environmental law in terms of the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act, is the conferring of powers on Municipalities to enforce the environmental duty of care in terms of s28 of NEMA.
Municipalities are now able to issue directives in terms of s28 of NEMA whereas previously that power was restricted to the Director-General (National Department of Environmental Affairs) and Heads of Department (Provincial Environmental Departments).
Municipalities are now able to direct persons who cause, have caused or may cause environmental damage or pollution to cease the offending activity and take further reasonable measures to remedy the situation, including conducting an environmental impact assessment.
If such person fails to comply with a directive, a municipality may take reasonable measures itself to remedy the situation and can then recover costs of doing so from among others:
a) the person who directly or indirectly caused the environmental damage;
b) the owner of the land on which the pollution or damage occurred or;
c) any person who was in control or had a right to use the land
Any person, such as a complainant, may, if the Municipality fails to direct a person responsible for environmental pollution or damage, apply to a competent court for an order directing the municipality to carry out any reasonable measures to remedy the situation.
Non-compliance with a directive constitutes a criminal offence.
National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998