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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
20 June 2006
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT NATIONAL STRATEGY; EIA’S; BIODIVERSITY ACT: DEPARTMENT BRIEFINGS
Chairperson: Mr L Zita (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) presentations on:
South Africa’s National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD)
The Objectives and Purpose of National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA)
Environmental Impact Assessment
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism on the national strategy for sustainable development, environmental impact assessments and the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act.
Members raised concerns about its lack of involvement in creating the sustainable development strategy, its practical implementation, the role of provinces, enforcement, budget allocations, the independence of environmental practitioners and hunting of predators in captivity.
National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD) presentation
Ms J Beaumont and Mr B Manale (Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) delegates) gave the presentation which included:
-Background to and mandate on the NSSD
-The process so far
-NSSD chapter outline
-Rationale and value of the NSSD
-Trends and implications regarding national resources, economy, governance and society
-Priority areas for intervention
-Process for completing the NSSD
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) found the presentation useful but was unsatisfied that the Committee was not involved in the creation of the NSSD. A Commission on Sustainable Development was a wonderful idea and she asked how it would function and if the Environmental Courts are coming back.
Mr Manale also found it regrettable that DEAT did not cooperate with the Committee on NSSD and said that they would find better ways to cooperate with Parliament in the future. The commission should be given space to define the policy and assist government.
Mr G Morgan (DA) also found the presentation useful. Now the NSSD was just words on paper and it would be a challenge to coordinate the department and society. He foresaw problems with resistance in many departments and noted that dedicated staff was needed to overcome the problem. He agreed with Ms Chalmers that enforcement was critical and the NSSD must be supported by a court system. Lastly he asked about the budgetary requirements.
Mr Manale said that the enforcement mechanisms should make it difficult or impossible to resist the NSSD.
Ms Beaumont responded that there were no immediate budgetary requirements. The details concerning the plan would come later. The guiding framework for NSSD was internalised in the budget, but the matter was complicated since it also included the provinces.
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) found the presentation useful but it needed some fleshing out. She noted that youth unemployment was taken into account in social trends and asked if women’s issues were also regarded. The issue of building capacity was of concern.
Ms Beaumont was unsure if women’s issues were taken into consideration and said she would look into the matter.
Mr J Combrinck (ANC) said that the NSSD document was good but noted that nothing was in place on a practical level.
Mr M Kalako (ANC) agreed with Mr Combrinck’s comment and asked if other Departments and provinces made inputs in the process.
Mr Manale answered that some provinces, for instance the Western Cape and Gauteng, had cooperated while others have resisted the process.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee could get the actual NSSD document. There was a contradiction between a market-based economy and sustainable development. It was for instance not economically feasible for car-manufacturers to produce a car that lasted for 20 years while it was would be good for the environment. South African society was unequal and culturally diverse and a goal was to obtain equality and become one people.
Mr Manale found the Chairperson’s example very experimental and noted that the top 200 companies were taking sustainable development seriously.
Ms Beaumont said that the NSSD was an all-encompassing document. It was also not a once off document but should be evaluated and strengthened every 1-2 years or at least every third year.
A Member of the Committee said that a campaign for the ‘greening of the bench’ should also be relaunced to make sure judges took environmental issues into consideration. He said the academic review panel was excellent but asked what was done to involve people on the ground and persuade them that environmental issues were not solely a European matter.
Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) asked if the fish migrated or died when the water got cold.
Mr Manale replied that the fish usually moved and noted that there was a Convention on migrating and struggling fish.
Mr D Olifant (ANC) asked what DEAT was doing to combat malaria.
Mr Manale answered that the Department would ensure its responsibility after the Convention.
Mr L Khoarai (ANC) asked about poverty relief.
Mr Manale replied that the Department had a social responsibility in everything they did.
Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) asked about the Human Rights Commission on Sustainable Development.
Mr Morgan noted that the Human Rights Commission and a national commission for enforcement would be entirely different.
Mr Manale said that the government’s international bonds should be strengthened.
Mr Rasmeni asked about the judiciary, enforcement and the Presidency’s involvement in the NSSD.
Ms Beaumont responded that there was an ongoing discussion with the policy advisory unit regarding the Presidency’s involvement. She noted that one should be cautious about establishing another commission.
The Chairperson said that South Africa could not achieve sustainable development until it became industrialised.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) presentation
Mr W Fourie (DEAT delegate) presented the EIA which consisted of the revised regulations in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998. The presentation included:
-Programme for information sessions
-Total EIAs to date
-Need for new regulation
-Provisions, conditions and procedure
Mr M Swart (DA) asked about the authority’s ability to meet the deadlines, enforcement of the short timeframes and who was responsible for studies regarding environmental impact.
Mr Manale replied that the authorities must have permission from DEAT to exceed the timeframes. It was not easy to get such permission and the authorities must have reasons for the delay. One must be realistic and realise that the timeframes would sometimes be exceeded. It would however be a problem if the authorities were allowed to exceed the timeframes too easily.
Mr Rasmeni asked at what level of authority decisions would be taken and how many applications have been rejected. He suggested that a user-friendly number should be established to guide the public and applicants. He also recommended establishing a protocol regarding the application process and that they use the regular system of core days instead of working days when establishing the time frame.
Mr Manale responded that decisions would be taken at both national and provincial level and that money has been allocated to assist the provinces. The provinces handle applications in their jurisdiction while national authorities handled applications regarding several provinces or the country as a whole. Historically the EIA was developed by developer organisations and the concept was to reach an acceptable solution. As a result few applications had been rejected but sometimes the applicant withdrew their application during the process. A call-center that provided general information was already established. To get information about a specific application the applicant must contact the consultant handling the case because it was not practical to offer detailed information at the call-center. A national system where applications could be traced by key descriptions and application number was being developed. A protocol was in the pipeline. The issue of core days or working days was discussed when the guidelines were being developed. They decided to go with working days, which were also used in many other regulations.
Mr I Cachalia (ANC) addressed the problem with applications on insignificant activities and that 70% of the applications now took more than two years to process. He asked if there was enough staff and was concerned about environmental issues being overlooked with the new timeframes and the enforcement of these timeframes.
Mr Manale acknowledged the problem concerning insignificant activities and agreed that processing these applications was a waste of time. DEAT was currently trying to eliminate the problem by creating rules on threshold. A new Basic Assessment form had been created to shorten the process. There was still a chance that environmental impacts may be overlooked but the DEAT was doing their best to prevent this from happening.
Mr Chalmers asked if the old or the new regulations would govern the backlog.
Mr Manale replied that a large amount of money had been allocated to get rid of the backlog. Applications received before 3 July 2006 were governed by the old regulations while applications received after that date would be governed by the new regulations.
The Chairperson asked if the shorter timeframe had been tested and reviewed by the stakeholders. He also asked if DEAT had compared the South African system with countries of similar development.
Mr Manale said the stakeholders were positive about the new regulations. The process started in 2000 and DEAT had bent over backwards to meet every need. It was however not possible to satisfy every need 100%. The authorities had more power over these issues than most countries, even industrialised countries. The authorities had more power than needed and he questioned the absolute regional power which gave authorities power to delay the process over motives that were not environmental.
Mr Kalako found the issue of authorities’ powers interesting. He noted that white males dominated the industry and asked about any changes. He also asked if there was a list of all people involved in EIAs.
Mr Manale said that he might have overstepped his mandate when commenting on the extent of government’s power. Young people had problems finding jobs. Often the government was the only one willing to train them but it was a problem that they often lost them to business after the training period. On 5 September 1997 less than 10 people were involved in EIAs. The recent development had created wonderful job opportunities and hundreds of people had moved into the still growing market. Environmental management frameworks (EMF) should identify areas of concern for instance endangered species, scenery etc. to make the process easier.
Ms Chalmers asked how the independence of the practitioners could be ensured.
Mr Manale agreed that the issue of independence was difficult but they tried to ensure independence. The Minister had for instance intervened in an instance where a practitioner was clearly not independent.
Mr Ntuli asked if the timeframes had been through practical testing.
Mr Manale replied that they had not been through practical training. The different spheres of government should cooperate to avoid chaos in the first months of use. When the structures were in place they would be able to meet the deadlines.
National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA) presentation
Mr P Botha (DEAT delegate) gave the presentation, which concerned:
-threatened and protected species regulations
-hunting norms and standards
-frequently asked questions
-the way forward
He added that the hunting industry was big and important to the economy. The industry must however be regulated and its image must change.
The Chairperson noted that the timeframe for discussion was 20 minutes.
Mr Morgan noted that the regulations were good but that implementation in the provinces was lacking and inconsistent, and asked what would be done to ensure correct implementation in the provinces. He was also concerned about what would happen to predators in captive breeding when that type of hunt was banned.
Ms L Sello (DEAT delegate) said there would be a workshop in July regarding the implementation of the legislation in the provinces. 2500 predators were currently in captive breeding. A two-year rehabilitation process was planned before the animals were freed.
Ms Chalmers asked why certain farms received exemptions.
Mr Botha responded that the farms could get exemptions if they fulfilled certain conditions regarding, for instance, fencing. Under the new regulations exempted farms must still apply for hunting permits.
Mr Rasmeni commented on the high number of private farms and asked for a clinical examination of communities’ claims over these farms. He also asked about mechanisms for empowerment.
Mr Combrinck and the Chairperson raised the issue of native populations’ hunting traditions and the prohibition on hunting with bows and dogs.
Mr Botha answered that the department would look into this issue.
Adoption of programme for the third term
The Committee’s programme for the third term of the 2006 parliamentary session was adopted.
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