National Environmental Management: Biodiversity, Protected Areas & Amendment Bills: hearings


26 August 2003
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

26 August 2003

Chairperson: Ms G Mahlangu (ANC)

Relevant documents:
Chamber of Mines of South Africa: Comments on the National Environmental Management Amendment (NEMA) Bill
Habitat Council: The CPPNE as World Heritage Site
SAFEAGE: Presentation on Biodiversity Bill
Working for Water Programme: Comment on Biodiversity Bill
Environmental 12 Consortium: Comment on Protected Areas Bill
Animal Welfare: Submissions on Protected Areas Draft Bill and Biodiversity Bill
Animal Welfare: Biodiversity Bill - Specific Comments
Animal Welfare: Amendments to insert biodiversity principles into the Biodiversity Bill
Lourens River Conservation Society: Comment on Protected Areas Bill
Kogelberg Biosphere Association (KOBIO): Comment on Protected Areas Bill
World Conservation Union (IUCN): A Critical Review of Provisions relating to "Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit-Sharing"
Traffic: Comments on National Environmental Management Act - Biodiversity Bill
Legal Resources Centre (LRC): Protected Areas and Community Owners
LRC: Promoting Biodiversity with a People-centred Approach
LRC: National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Bill - proposed amended wording and additions
LRC: LRC annotations, 13 August 2003
Wildlife and Environment Society of SA: Submission - NEMA Bill
Justice for Animals: Submissions on Bills B29-03, B30-03, B39-03
Richtersveld Sida! Hub Vereeniging: Comments on Protected Areas Bill

Ten organisations made presentations to the Committee about the National Environmental Management Amendment Bill (NEMA), Biodiversity Bill and Protected Areas Bill. Some of these organisations were umbrella bodies representing various smaller community-based organisations. The submissions had different focus areas and a variety of interests where represented, including organised mining, the environmentalist lobby against genetically modified farming, the animal welfare community, localised volunteer associations and the Legal Resources Centre.


Chamber of Mines of South Africa submission
Mr A Parsons, Assistant Adviser: Safety and Environment of the Chamber of Mines, said the Chamber participated in the drafting of the International Council on Mining and Metals' statement against mining in World Heritage Sites, and that it looked forward to further international liaison regarding protected areas and biodiversity.

Apart from comments submitted in its "Comments on the National Environmental Management Amendment Bill", some additional concerns were raised. The Chamber would like to see a detailed decisionmaking mechanism for the declaration of protected areas. Occasional remote prospecting should be allowed under controlled conditions in some categories of protected areas. The powers of environmental inspectors should be in proportion to the offence committed. Thus there was a need to categorise environmental offences. The role of environmental inspectors might overlap with responsibilities set out in other legislation.

Dr C Olver, Director General: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), voiced his appreciation for the Chamber's committed stance against mining in World Heritage Sites, adding that he wished they could have made the same statement about national parks. He felt that the Chamber was blurring the debate and that their proposal for fluctuating powers did not seem workable.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) said different categories of environmental inspectors would create too many areas of implementation. If the proposal was accepted, it could cause an inspector who saw someone stealing cycads, to not intervene if cycad theft fell outside of his offence categories.

Mr R September (ANC) wanted to know whether the Chamber had taken into account the interests of indigenous communities regarding participation in mining in protected areas.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) referred to the Chamber's claim that the responsibilities and functions of the environmental management inspectors coincided with similar responsibilities provided for in other legislation. She wanted to know if the Chamber was saying something was clashing or was being omitted.

Mr Parsons replied that the Chamber was not calling for different categories of inspectors, but wanted to see that their powers were proportional to the offence committed. Just as the Criminal Procedure Act created different categories of crime, the NEMA Bill should specify categories of environmental crime. He said the mining industry understood the need to share resources with communities. If, through a public consultation process, merit was found in mining in a national park, it would be necessary to deproclaim the area. It would be re-absorbed into the park after a rehabilitation process. The Chamber was not saying mining should be generally allowed in national parks. Responding to Ms Chalmer, he said other departments (for example Water Affairs and Forestry) did have environmental inspectors. Functions should be aligned to prevent the overlapping of responsibilities.

SAFEAGE (SA Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering) submission
Ms T Makhanya and Mr G Ashton reported that said there was a glaring absence of measures in the Bill to manage genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They were classified under aliens and invasive species but the Bill needed to explicitly refer to genetic modification. There was global evidence of genetic pollution resulting in loss of biodiversity. Gene pollution was threatening crop diversity and food security. Being forced into monoculture practices has destabilised subsistence farmers. Monoculture has increased rapidly due to genetic engineering. The issue of pesticides undermining the ecosystem should also be dealt with under the new legislation.

SAFEAGE felt rural farmers had inadequate access to information and benefit sharing from the DEAT. Free GM seeds were being handed out and this was causing crop pollution in a number of rural areas. Such seeds were patented and traditional healers had become concerned about patents on their herbs and the contamination of medical plants.

Mr Ashton pointed out that the Department of Agriculture has admitted it could not properly monitor GMOs. The department was promoting GMOs without paying sufficient attention to the risks involved. This clashed directly with the UN Biosafety Protocol. The Biodiversity Bill should apply to all living organisms, natural and humanly altered. The DEAT should step in to provide coherent and practical measures against GMOs to protect the country's people and environment.

Dr Olver said the department was also concerned about GMOs and felt proper assessments and regulations were needed. This could be catered for with amendments to the GMO Act because it would be unwise to create parallel legislation.

Mr September (ANC) inquired about the source of the free seeds. More attention should have been paid to the GMO issue. Very powerful business concerns were involved in GMO development and this made it difficult to control.

Ms Makhanya answered that extension officers from the Department of Agriculture working with a genetic engineering company were distributing free seeds in parts of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr Arendse (ANC) agreed that GMOs should be regulated tightly. Most research on GMOs that reached government seemed to be from the pro-side of the debate. Interest groups like SAFEAGE should supply specific and concrete proposals on how the Biodiversity Bill could deal with the issue.

Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) said thousands of hectares of GM maize had been planted during the past five years. It has been very successful and had empowered many people who had historically been denied the chance to produce crops on their own. GM maize withstood dry seasons and certain insects. GM fields needed less attention and work and the time between sowing and reaping had been shortened. Parties making submissions against GMOs should supply the Committee with documentation to substantiate their claims.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) said although it was clearly understood that the Department of Agriculture would manage the GMO Act, it could be necessary to somehow include the GMO issue in the Biodiversity Act since GMO's could affect biodiversity.

Mr Arendse (ANC) agreed and pointed out that it would cost huge amounts of money to eradicate the resilient invasive species that could result from GMO's..

Mr Ashton said if it were left to the Department of Agriculture to manage GMOs alone, the country would not be dealing in a holistic manner with its responsibilities under UN conventions of which it was a signatory. Rewriting the GMO Act would not be sufficient because it was beyond redemption - its drafting was influenced by the pro-GMO sector.

Biowatch SA submission
Ms E Pschorn-Strauss, Project Manager: Biowatch SA, said there has not been a single risk assessment or environmental impact assessment of the affect that GM crops were having on the South African environment. The Department of Agriculture did not want to supply environmental watchdogs with information on GM activities in South Africa, claiming the information belonged to private companies in the genetic engineering sector.

She said African farmers who planted GM seeds did not own the technology that they were using because it was patented. Farmers could not save patented seeds or give them to neighbours. Evidence of the risks of GMOs has been emerging all over the world. The DEAT should ensure that proper assessments were done before permits were granted for GM farming. The Department of Agriculture could not both promote and safeguard GM farming so the DEAT should keep an eye on the safety of GMOs.

Ms Ndzanga (ANC) said previous generations knew how to preserve seeds but their knowledge was no longer being passed on. She wanted to know what alternative the anti-GMO lobby could offer.

Ms Pschorn-Strauss answered that people elsewhere in Africa still knew how to preserve seeds, for instance by mixing them with ash. She also cited the example of community seed banks,where people brought their seeds and could obtain seeds freely from their community. Most African farmers were small-scale and still knew how to preserve seeds. One multinational company was buying up the country's seed companies, particularly maize and cotton. Eventually farmers and the country would no longer have ownership of seeds.

Dr Olver said the Department of Agriculture should have been present to defend itself. He disputed the claim that proper risk assessments regarding GMOs were not being done. There were proper, well-functioning mechanisms in place but the law should be tightened up. If the Bills under discussion had to regulate the biosafety of GMOs, it would require a decision by Cabinet to transfer the applicable authority from the Department of Agriculture to the DEAT. Thus the issue could not really be pursued in the current forum.

Habitat Council submission
Ms M Roux of the Habitat Council said the Protected Areas Bill should put more emphasis on the principle that development applications must be matched against the purpose for which an area was proclaimed. The Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment (CPPNE) exemplified how environmental regulations were not as strong as planning laws or regulations (see document "Habitat Council: The CPPNE as World Heritage Site"). The only effective protection the CPPNE currently had was the Urban Structure Plan. In the case of the CPPNE, she wanted to know if private land serving as buffer zones for natural areas would become local nature reserves. Laws were needed to prevent green lines from being moved to facilitate development.

The Chair replied that the next meeting would deal with protected areas. She said for the rest of the meeting, each presenter would be allocated a maximum of fifteen minutes in order to give all the organisations present an opportunity to speak.

Working for Water Programme and Ukuvuka submission
Dr G Preston, Chairperson: Working for Water Programme, made eight recommendations aimed at improving the Bill (see document "Working for Water Programme: Comment on Biodiversity Bill").
As a preventative step, a clause was needed to curb the export of invasive alien species (IAS).
Too many people were bringing IAS into the country. Those who import alien species for profit purposes should provide financial guarantees to cover possible invasion by the species.
The costs of preventing, controlling or eradicating IAS should be borne by those who introduced them or derived financial benefit from them.
A specific section is needed about co-ordination and facilitation of bio-control agents. Special allowances should be made for bio-control agents held in quarantine and researchers should be allowed to grow listed invasives for bio-control research.
The phrase "consisting of public servants" should be removed from clause 74.5 of the Biodiversity Bill.
Because hundreds of millions of rands of damage could be caused by IAS, the scope of penalties should allow for the seriousness of the impact of invasive species. Penalties should be increased as a deterrent.
Government already had powers that allowed it to remove IAS from private land. Measures were also needed to prevent people from transferring or selling land prior to invasions having been managed. This would radically raise awareness.
The authorities should choose the experts to conduct risk and impact assessments of proposed introductions of alien species at the cost of the proponents.

Environmental 12 Consortium submission
Dr B Bainbridge of the Environmental 12 Consortium identified a number of deficiencies and omissions in the Protected Areas Bill (see document "Environmental 12 Consortium: Comment on Protected Areas Bill"). The term "environmental goods and services" in section 17(g) was not defined and should be replaced with the term "ecosystem services". Furthermore, it was necessary that the term Wilderness Area (WA) be added to the Bill's categories of Protected Areas. The designation of private WA's also required consideration. Owners of such areas have experienced problems to legally designate their land. Reference was also made to the value assessment of international WA's and the fact that the draft Bill made no provision for World Heritage Sites. Subject to consultation with the civil aviation industry, restrictions on aircraft should not be limited to special nature reserves and World Heritage Sites but should also apply to wilderness zones.

Animal Welfare submission
Mr Saleem Wadee raised three key concerns (see document "Animal Welfare: Submissions on Protected Areas Draft Bill and Biodiversity Bill").
The bills did not comply with or adequately reflect the policies and goals established in the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The bills lacked proper oversight mechanisms or duties of care, for example in relation to the removal of wildlife through lethal means.
They lacked effective co-operative governance structures and measures to ensure accountability and sufficient participation by affected parties.

A fundamental principle of the Convention was that all life forms had intrinsic value, culturally and aesthetically. The Biodiversity Bill should include this principle and suggested amendments (see document "Animal Welfare: Amendments to insert biodiversity principles into the Biodiversity Bill"). An oversight body such as an Ethics Committee was also needed. In terms of financial accountability, a more public process would be beneficial.

Lourens River Conservation Society submission
Mr A Penfold, Chairperson: Lourens River Conservation Society, said his organisation was a volunteer grouping of ordinary citizens whose efforts lead to the Lourens River corridor being declared a Protected Natural Environment in 1997. The Society was concerned that the new legislation could cause the removal of protective status on some lesser-known protected areas, such as Lourens River. The older legislation under which such areas were declared would be repealed under the new Act. The Minister would be able to withdraw existing declarations without any consultation with affected parties. The Society would like to see public participation in this regard. The new legislation also made no reference to Protected Natural Environments. If Lourens River lost its legislative protection, it could open the way to canalisation and other developments that would diminish the river corridor's value as an attractive natural asset for the community and visitors.

Kogelberg Biosphere Association (Kobio) submission
Mr L van Heerden, Chairperson: Kogelberg Biosphere Association (Kobio), said there are currently three Biosphere Reserves in South Africa registered with UNESCO. It was of the utmost importance that biosphere reserves form a chapter of their own in the new legislation. As yet, Kobio has not been able to get the Minister of Environmental Affairs and/or the President to sign its application to register its biosphere with UNESCO. Government held the opinion that these reserves were established in terms of international agreements which were viewed as "soft legislation". Developers were threatening Kobio's zone because the authorities were not honouring their undertakings to UNESCO. South Africa needed to properly legislate for biosphere reserves.

World Conservation Union (IUCN) and Traffic submission
Mr M Burgener of the IUCN supplied the group with "A Critical Review of Provisions relating to Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit-Sharing" and "Traffic: Comments on National Environmental Management Act - Biodiversity Bill". The bulk of his presentation consisted of the screening of a video made during workshops that took biodiversity issues to rural people who depended on natural resources for their livelihood. It also revealed their needs in terms of community-based natural resource management. The workshops were run in conjunction with the DEAT. The video looked at:
How the Kalahari San's natural appetite suppressant had been patented by a multinational pharmaceutical company. San communities would only see a fraction of the profits.
South Africa's huge (but informal) traditional healing industry created a big demand for herbs, as did conventional medicine. Constant harvesting could lead to the extinction of some indigenous species.
African tradition did not allow the cutting down of marula trees. Today, in areas such as Welverdiend in Limpopo, massive unemployment forced people to sell marula nuts to alcohol manufacturers. The money from a kilogram of nuts could feed a family for a few days. Guidelines were needed to protect the marula tree.
The woodcarving tradition in KwaZulu-Natal's Duku Duku forest was threatening the environment. High unemployment caused fierce competition for wood to carve.

Legal Resources Centre (LRC) submission
Mr D Bosch and Mr H Smith identified five key areas of concern (see "LRC: Protected Areas and Community Owners" and other LRC documents):
The international law imperative regarding community involvement and participation in conservation management, including the fair and equitable distribution of benefits.
Identification of protected areas and integration with planning law and development. The Bill should encourage local communities to initiate processes for the identification of protected areas.
Community members in protected areas must hold a partner status reflected in management plans, rules, agreements, monitoring and performance indicators.
Existing protected areas and restitution: To provide for the restoration of land rights dispossessed under apartheid laws, the Minister should be authorised to implement restitution and restoration settlement agreements without recourse to Parliament.
Conservation authorities and local communities both needed statutory protection against mining on their land. Regulation of mining in protected areas had to be improved although provision should also be made for land owning communities to mine on their own land.

Ms P Yako, Deputy Director General: Biodiversity and Conservation of the DEAT, wanted to know how Animal Welfare saw their proposals in relation to the Animal Protection Act. Regarding the LRC's submission, she requested clarity about the meaning of "indigenous interests". Working for Water's suggestion that introducers of alien species should supply financial guarantees had merit, but it was unclear how the cost of the introduction of alien species would be estimated. The issue of biocontrol agents also needed attention but it could be a matter of implementation rather than legislation. She said out the three bills, the NEMA Bill should be seen as the overarching legislation.

Dr G Cowan, Deputy Director: DEAT, dealt with wilderness areas and biospheres. He responded to Kobio's reference to "soft legislation", pointing out that international agreements recognised national sovereignty. This made national legislation the decisive factor. The biosphere agreement with UNESCO was a negotiated agreement. The legislation made the buffer zone (mentioned by Ms Roux) also a protected environment. Wilderness areas were seen as a zone within a park or nature reserve.

Ms Yako asked if Dr Preston's comments about invasive alien species included animals. He said they did, especially since animals could move from region to region.

Dr Pieter Botha, Deputy Director: DEAT, cited an example pertaining to animals. He said if you were to import the Bontebok to the Northern Province, it would interbreed with the Blesbok and cause a genetic mess.

Mr Bosch recommended an official reportback from the DEAT on the day's submissions.

Dr Bainbridge said that "Wilderness Area" (WA) was an internationally protected area category. There would be some nature reserves of which parts or the whole could be declared WAs. International people knew about the Umfolozi WA as much as they knew about the Kruger Park. The new legislation could cause the Umfolozi WA to never be recognised again as such because it would just be seen as a part of the Umfolozi nature park. Law provision was also needed to identify private WAs. The Bill made mountain catchment areas a protected category although the Mountain Catchment Areas Act already covered them.

Dr Cowan replied that the Mountain Catchment Areas Act pertained to private land and state land primarily in the Western and Eastern Cape. This land was mostly controlled by provincial conservation authorities. Wilderness areas were set up in terms of the Forest Act.

Dr Bainbridge said his organisation felt a category should be added under section 9 to recognise the existence of WAs in South Africa. Such a step could also have positive implications for tourism.

Mr Bosch suggested that the section dealing with protected environments could provide for Wilderness areas to be declared within other protected areas. This would accommodate Dr Bainbridge's concerns.

Mr Penfold made a similar plea regarding "protected natural environments" (PNEs) instead of "protected environments", which he thought was too generic. Unless areas were mentioned as PNEs, they could simply drop out of official recognition.

The Chair said the Committee has received much information and would meet again on Tuesday to informally deliberate the Protected Areas Bill. On 16 September the Committee would formally debate the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.


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