Draft Environmental Management Bill


26 August 1998
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

26 August 1998

Documents handed out.
The Draft National Environmental Management Bill, access from http://www.polity.org.za/govdocs/bills/1998/

The Portfolio Committee was informally introduced to the Bill by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The changes made to the Bill during the public participation stages were explained. The committee used the opportunity to ask questions in order to prepare themselves for the public hearings on Monday.

The Chairperson, Ms Mahlangu, welcomed the department and the visitors to the meeting. The draft Bill had not yet been tabled in Parliament, and the committee was looking at the implications for the public hearings on Monday.

The department requested the opportunity to brief the committee on some of the changes made to the Bill, the process the Draft Bill had followed in the last few weeks, some of the key issues in the Bill and the institutions the Bill provided for. The committee agreed that the Department should continue.

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism team at the meeting was headed by the Deputy Director General, Dr. Abrahamse, and included Advocate Smith, Advocate Du Bois, Ms Coetzee, and Ms Beaumont.

Some of the key points to come out of the departments presentations are mentioned below.

Dr Abrahamse noted that the Committee for Sustainable Development had been taken out of the Bill. She noted that the concept would occur at a higher level, possibly through a Cabinet Memorandum.

The Environmental Tribunal was not included in the draft Bill, as the department in consultation with the Department of Justice and other government departments, thought it would be better to try and improve existing structures, rather than generate another one.

Mr Du Bois, a consultant to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, noted that the draft Bill was a very complex piece of legislation, in that it tried to balance the need for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to be a lead agent in fulfilling the environmental health right of people, with the constitutional division of powers. This balance called for extensive co-operation between government departments, and between national, provincial, and local government.

The key structure involved in this balancing act would be the Committee for Environmental Co-ordination. The committee would consist of Director Generals from national and provincial government departments whose activities would affect the environment.

Mr. Du Bois noted the importance of the Environmental Implementation and Management Plans, which all departments and provinces would be required to draw up.

Mr. Smith, Minister Jordan’s advisor, noted that there had been large input on the Bill from numerous quarters. The background to the debates and comments that would be heard at the public hearings was important. The concept of guiding principles which would guide all activities and decisions was not new. Other legislation, including the Living Marine Resources Act, the National Water Act, and the current National Forests Bill all had similar provisions.

The Co-operative government arrangements were seen to be temporary, as the constitution required new legislation dealing with co-operative governance, which had not been enacted yet. The provisions in the Bill are to serve until such time as the legislation is enacted. The debates on these provisions ranged from the provisions being too prescriptive, through to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism not taking enough of a lead agent role in the process.




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