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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 March 2003
SADC PROTOCOL ON FISHERIES; MARINE COASTAL MANAGEMENT; PROPOSED NEW AIR POLLUTION BILL; CALTEX ON AIR POLLUTION: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms G L Mahlangu (ANC)
SADC Protocol on Fisheries Presentation
Photodegradable Plastic Bags Presentation
Marine Coastal Management briefed the Committee on SADC protocol on fisheries. Members agreed to its ratification. Officials from the Department summarised their work on a new Air Quality Bill. Community representatives were given an opportunity to express their viewpoints. The Committee was informed on photodegradable plastic bags developed at the University of Pretoria and requested that the committee delay regulations on bags for three months to create space for technological solutions.
Briefing by Marine and Coastal Management
Mr P Buthelezi Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) presented the background, objectives and provisions of the SADC protocol on fisheries. He discussed the advantages and the concerns of ratification of this document. He requested ratification of the protocol and stressed that it would be at no extra cost to the country.
Please see attached document for further details.
Ms Mbuyazi (IFP) asked about the conflict between United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Ministry of Justice.
Mr Buthelezi confirmed that there had been conflict but that this had now been satisfactorily addressed.
Mr Moorcroft asked for documents. The chair replied that they were trying to arrange copies of the documents.
Ms Chalmers asked MCM to expand on the legislation allowing countries to jointly negotiate access to foreign fishing.
Mr Buthelezi clarified that South Africa did not want to allow foreign vessels in its waters, but that other SADC countries did make agreements to let foreign vessels fish in their waters. The MCM felt that this protocol will ensure that this will be done under the most equitable of conditions.
Mr Arendse suggested that as no members seemed to have any problems with the protocol, the Committee should agree to accession of the protocol.
Ms Mahlangu asked where the authority of fisheries would be located and whether this protocol would strengthen the structure of NEPAD. Mr Buthelezi clarified that Botswana would be the responsible authority. Although Nigeria was responsible for NEPAD marine and coastal affairs, this was clearly a SADC matter.
The committee agreed to ratification of the protocol.
Prof Mbadi (UDM) asked about the issuing of fishing licenses to people fishing for sustenance. He also commented that the regulation on 4x4 vehicles was not well enforced.
Mr Buthelezi stated that everyone had to have a licence, because it was necessary for monitoring and regulation. However, he said that MCM had a robust program that allowed coastal communities properly-controlled access to marine resources. This involved exemptions for communities fishing for sustenance. MCM was trying to ensure that people ignoring the 4x4 ruling were brought to book.
Ms Chalmers asked if the new environmental court which was instituted in Hermanus was going to extend its influence into the Eastern Cape where poaching was a serious problem.
Mr Buthelezi agreed that poaching and over-fishing were national problems, but stated that the court at Hermanus was to be the prototype. The department was prioritising the Western Cape.
Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked if some time frame could be put on this process.
Air Quality Legislation
Members of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) who had come to talk about progress towards improving the old air quality legislation.
Dr Matjila (DEAT) stated that the government had prioritised air quality. It was envisaged that the finalisation of the new Air Quality Bill. The current legislation was more than 30 years old and must be improved.
Dr Mabalane gave an overview of the status quo. Since the old legislation was introduced (1965) technologies had changed and South Africa had developed industrially. The old legislation was non-transparent and there was no involvement of stakeholders. It was based on emissions for each company, and did not take into account cumulative effects. It was weak legislation; not punitive, and very reactive, relying on information from NGO's or communities before there was a response. The Department had been working on a draft Air Quality Management Act, which they would put out for public comment shortly.
The new document was based on the constitutional right of everyone to a healthy environment, and on the white paper on pollution and waste management. The draft bill seeks to set norms and standards for concentrations for Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's). It seeks to make every stakeholder monitor its own activities and report to government. The government will synthesise information and report to the public. The new legislation will be enforceable. It will set tough directives and there will be extreme penalties for transgression. It will also be flexible - making room for new strategies regarding factors such as vehicle emissions.
Mr Mbuli (Air Pollution Officer) discussed the Caltex operations. Caltex had a permit from DEAT, issued under the old legislation. The Caltex refinery was surrounded by monitoring networks and these continuous monitoring systems showed levels to be within permit conditions. Interactions between Caltex, the community, and government had resulted in an improvement of emissions from 40 tons to 14 tons. A study by CSIR showed no immediate danger, but it didn't take into account upset conditions. Various independent consultants had reviewed refinery operations and had made suggestions. He stated that there were short-comings: the permit conditions would obviously change under the new act and these were already being reviewed.
In closing Mr Matjila commented that several attempts had been made by his department to encourage compliance by companies and that at present they were pursuing another company in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Mr Arendse (ANC) said that it was all very well to list the short comings of the old act, but how would these shortcomings be dealt with in the new legislation? How were the specific problems of the communities around Caltex being dealt with? He did not think that if 'no immediate danger was detected' was satisfactory, and referred to the asbestos mines as an example. While Caltex did have a permit, this was issued in terms of the old act, which had many flaws.
Ms Ramotsamai (ANC) commented that it was very important that the new bill covered all these areas. What stakeholder participation there was in the drafting of the new bill. She also had a problem with the industry monitoring itself because their priority was profit. What punitive measures for transgressors were being considered? She suggested that they should be harsh, and that they should help to benefit and educate the communities affected. Ms Mahlangu agreed that compensation was a short term solution.
Mr Matjila stated that the punitive measures would be harsh, to the extent of closing down of operations. They would be in line with the degree of the transgressions.
He affirmed that regulation was the responsibility of government, which sets up minimum standards and monitors that they were being adhered to. However, the department could also use information from self-regulatory exercises performed by the private companies.
Many committee members commented that one could not leave monitoring up to industry, and that government had a responsibility. Mr Matjila agreed that this was a responsibility that they did not intend to delegate to companies.
Mr Kalako (ANC) wanted information on the time frames of the bill. He asked that the department to conduct its own public hearings, and mentioned the biodiversity bill in this regard.
Mr September commented that implementation was always a problem. What was the capacity of the department to implement whatever they put on paper? He suggested that the Bill be expedited and that prevention should be emphasised.
Mr Matjila stated that the department would go through a costing exercise to make sure that the necessary resources were available for implementation.
Mr Moorcroft asked if the department had looked into the best legislation that was available in other countries on this matter.
Mr Matjila replied that they were drawing on the expertise of countries which had an advanced environmental legislation, like Norway.
Ms Xingwana (ANC) commented that pollution was a problem in Gauteng. She asked about the mine dumps and if the rehabilitation that was in place was working in the long term.
Mr Matjila stated that mining was the responsibility of the Department of Minerals and Energy. However, it was obliged to report to DEAT on the effectiveness of rehabilitation measures and that DEAT were committed to following this up.
Ms Chalmers asked about provision of incentives in the new act.
Mr Matjila replied that this was possible, but he was not sure whether it would be covered by this particular legislation. He stated that the department was working on an area of legislation encouraging improvement through environmental incentives.
Mr A Birkenshaw, representing Tableview residents association asked when the legislation would come into being. He stated that on the 13 March 2003 the community took an air sample and found carcinogenic VOC's and more benzene than WHO (World Health Organisation) specifications. The CSIR study was completed fourteen years ago, and was out of date. Who measured the figures on the reduction of emissions from 40 to 14 tons and commented that one could not trust Caltex to monitor objectively themselves. He also stated that the monitoring stations were more than two kilometres from the refinery, and could only receive a small proportion of the pollution. The community had initiated an Information Sharing and Analysis Centre Study (ISACS) study - a comparative study on children's respiratory diseases in different communities. The results of this had not been published yet. Refinery Managers Environmental Committee, which claimed to consult and include community representatives, was not satisfactory, and did not provide a forum for the community to express their concerns.
Mr Matjila replied that VOC's would be covered in the new bill, and that proper regulation would cover cumulative effects and long-term impacts. The CSIR study had been noted, but that the government would make its own studies as well. Regarding comments on community and stakeholder participation, he had understood that there was good consultation with people on the ground but he now accepted that the consultation was not sufficient. This would be followed up.
Mr Linden Booth (Contact Trust) apologised for the small turn out of community representatives. Many communities wished to come but they had been under the impression that the hearings were the following week.
Mr A. Soeker (Groundwork) apologised because his organisation had also thought the briefings were next week. He extended an invitation to the committee members to come to a workshop that was being held next week. The aims of the workshop were for communities to share problems and strategies and provide solutions.
Mr M Burgener (Traffic) asked about the time period for this legislation. At the moment it was framework legislation. When would legislation that was implementable be produced?
Mr Matjila replied that it was intended that the final bill would proceed through the committee in May or June, and that they intended to see the bill through this year.
The Chair suggested that the committee attend the workshop next week to engage further with the communities. She said that the committee was waiting for the draft bill.
Photodegradable Shopping Bags
Mr F. De Kleijn, who worked with Dr W. Packer at the University of Pretoria, briefed the Committee on photodegradable shopping bags. He introduced the bags and discussed how they work, and how effective they could be in reducing litter.
Please refer to attached document for details of the presentation.
Mr Moss asked whether the degradation by-products were harmful
Ms Xingwana stated that she found the example of a degrading bag quite unusual. How could people in rural areas be educated about this product?
Mr Arendse asked if it was harmful in anyway to humans, animals, or plants. Would the bags degrade in the shade, or if they were buried?
Mr de Kleijn replied that the bags degrade in the same way as normal bags, just faster. There were no new harmful by-products in these bags. The degradation products were water and carbon dioxide. A study by Dr Peter Ryan at UCT had shown that on the sea shore the main problem with plastic bags was visual pollution. Marine life was not endangered.
He stated that the bags would degrade in the shade, but not as fast, as the process was accelerated by UV light. When buried the bags will not degrade faster than other bags. The bags were being promoted mainly as a solution to litter.
Mr Matjila asked about whether this product would affect the effectiveness of plastic bags as marketing tools.
Mr de Kleijn stated that only brilliant white bags would not work. The bags could still be effective marketing tools.
The meeting was adjourned.
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