Environment Conservation Amendment Bill and Protected Areas Bill: deliberations


02 September 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

2 September 2003

Chairperson: Ms G Mahlangu (ANC)

Relevant documents:
Environment Conservation Amendment Bill (B45 - 2003)
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT): Insert new section 24 C
DEAT: Changes Proposed to Protected Areas Bill (B39 - 2003)

The Committee deliberated on the Environment Conservation Amendment Bill and Protected Areas Bill, receiving input from representatives of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), Department of Water Affairs, Chamber of Mines, Botanical Society of South Africa and Cape Peninsula National Park. Issues discussed included overlapping functions of the DEAT and Department of Water Affairs, the role of Water Affairs in the Conservation Amendment Bill, ministerial powers, wilderness areas and consultation mechanisms. The DEAT presented its suggested amendments to the Protected Areas Bill.

The Chair asked the Committee to first discuss the Environmental Conservation Amendment Bill before the meeting would move to an informal deliberation of the Protected Areas Bill.

Mr J Le Roux (DA) referred to page 4 ("Purpose and Summary") of the Environmental Conservation Amendment Bill and said deposit systems worked well for glass bottles, but they would not work for second-hand tyres as suggested by the Bill. According to him, second-hand tyres were worthless.

Prof J Glazewski, Special Advisor: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, said it was not economical to fetch tyres from the veld. It would be better to put an extra value on tyres that could be channelled through a section 21 company to pay collectors for gathering tyres and dropping them at the depot. This could create employment in the informal sector.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) agreed that benefits should go to the collector. Many parts of South Africa had no capacity to recycle. The DEAT could work with the Department of Transport to provide special facilities where people could drop recyclable waste materials.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) wanted clarity on the role of the Department of Water Affairs as set out in the Environment Conservation Amendment Bill. It seemed like waste management functions were being transferred while Water Affairs retained the budget.

The Chair said Water Affairs wanted to continue managing landfill sites because water was being used in such sites and Water Affairs were responsible for the country's water resources. That could explain why Water Affairs were retaining staff and the budget.

Prof Glazewski referred to section 20 and said it was unusual to see an environmental bill containing a section administered by a different Minister (Water Affairs). The issue needed to be cleared up.

Mr E Moorcroft (DA) wanted to know whether Environmental Affairs would still control radioactive waste sites under the new legislation.

Prof Glazewski said the new Bill would empower Environmental Affairs to have the greatest say in the matter, but Water Affairs would not be excluded. It was a classic overlap situation.

The Chair then moved to the Protected Areas Bill, saying it would empower the Minister to take immediate action in situations to which he could not currently respond. Water Affairs were not doing enough to ensure a clean environment. More hands were needed. It was regrettable that the Department of Mineral Affairs and Energy did not attend the meeting because the Bill largely spoke about mining.

Ms P Yako, Deputy Director General: Biodiversity and Conservation of the DEAT, said the Department had a meeting with the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) to discuss how the Bill dealt with community issues around mining. Section 48.2 was considered discriminatory to communities and the LRC gave the Department some proposed amendments. There had also been a meeting and negotiations with the Chamber of Mines. The Department of Mineral Affairs and Energy still had to comment on the process.

Mr Arendse (ANC) said it was agreed that Mineral Affairs would be the main department handling transformation of mining and that the Bill under discussion would somehow ensure or state this. It was perhaps necessary to wait for consensus.

Mr Moorcroft (DA) stressed that it was very important that the Bill gave the Minister a veto right in a cases where attempts were made to mine in national parks.

The Chair said such a provision would address concerns like those raised by the Richtersveld community and other groups.

Ms Yako said her department's first set of comments pertained to definitions - see DEAT document "Changes Proposes" (to Protected Areas Bill). Some terms needed to be inserted, for example "sustainability" and "lawful occupier". Regarding Chapter 2 ("Objectives of Act"), she said the objectives were not broad enough. They had to become more people-centered.

Ms L Mbuyazi (IFP) wanted to know what has been done about the suggestions to retain "Wilderness Area" as a protected category. She said it needed to be included as a category.

Dr Cowan, Deputy Director: DEAT, replied that wilderness areas were being encapsulated by the National Forestry Act of 1998. The concern was about wilderness areas in nature reserves or national parks. The latter should be the category.

Prof Glazewski said he it was an anomaly to have wilderness areas under forestry legislation, because a wilderness could also be a desert. He was not at ease with the idea of letting the category fall away.

The Chair said the Committee would return to the point later.

Mr M Botha, Project Leader: Cape Conservation Unit of the Botanical Society of SA, felt it was correct to let wilderness areas fall under nature parks or protected areas. It would simplify the terminology of protected areas.

Ms Yako then continued to work through the suggested amendments as set out in the DEAT's "Proposed Changes" document.

Mr Botha referred to section 23 and said that contractual park agreements should provide for suitable withdrawal measures. The Minister should be able to terminate the agreement.

Mr P Britton, Manager: Planning of Cape Peninsula National Park, wanted to know how one could get out of such a deal. His organisation would not accept section 23.

Mr H Swart added that declaring an area a nature reserve could be seen as an expropriation of the rights of the owner.

Mr Botha maintained that the power of the Minister was crucial because private landowners could react very quickly if one did not freeze current land use.

Prof Glazewski referred to the DEAT document "Insert new section 24 C" (pertaining to the Environment Conservation Amendment Bill) and said it contained amendments discussed earlier.

The Chair then introduced the Director General of Water Affairs, Mr Muller, to explain his department's role in and concerns about the Environment Conservation Amendment Bill, focussing on section 20.

Mr Muller said his department was supervising this section of the Bill because the landfill issue was directly linked to water. He supported the transfer of the core functions to the DEAT, but some system was needed for decisions related to water protection to be taken in concurrence with the Minister of Water Affairs. The Bill made inadequate distinction between hazardous waste disposal and normal waste disposal.The memorandum on the objects of the Bill - on the organisational, personnel and financial aspects - was quite misleading. His department could not protect water resources if it had to transfer its staff. Capacity building would have financial implications.

The Chair said the Bill's formulation and all the points of concern would be dealt with during the Committee's next meeting on 16 September.

Ms Yako returned to the DEAT's "Proposed Changes" document and said an addition to section 31 was proposed to ensure sufficient consultation with communities.

Mr Nikisi Lesufi, Environmental Advisor: Chamber of Mines, said his organisation would like to see a broadening of the consultation mechanisms.

Mr Arendse (ANC) wanted to know what were the "appropriate circumstances" mentioned in section 33.3.

Ms Yako replied that the intention was to distinguish between an interested person who might or might not be a resident in close proximity. There was a need to differentiate between those who may be heard and those who must be heard.

Ms C Ramotasamai (ANC) said it would indeed be impossible for the Minister to see all interested parties, those with rights and those without.

The Chair said the Chamber was asking why landowners could not also make oral representations. They should not be limited to written representations. The next session (on 15 and/or 16 September) would continue looking at the DEAT's proposals from chapter 4, section 38. The National Environmental Management Amendment Bill (B29 - 2003) and the Biodiversity Bill (B30 - 2003) would be dealt with on 22 and 23 September.

The meeting was adjourned.


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