National Environmental Laws Amendment Bill [B35-2007]: More Proposed Amendments

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

17 June 2008
Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC, NorthWest)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism explained a late-insertion proposed amendment to the National Environmental Laws Amendment Bill. The Committee agreed to the proposed amendments. The Committee would return the following week with its final mandates on this Bill. It would consider the National Environmental Management Bill [B36-2007] only in the third session beginning 28 July. There was uncertainty about when Parliament would be closing for the year – at the end of August or September – in preparation for the 2009 elections.

Meeting report

Proposed Amendments to National Environmental Laws Amendment Bill
The Chair asked the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) to guide the Committee with commentary on the proposed amendments especially those affecting DWAF.
Ms Joanne Yawitch, Deputy Director General: Environmental Quality and Protection (DEAT), pointed out that all the proposed amendments had already been discussed with the exception of those amendments dealing with the designation of DWAF officials with Environmental Management Inspector (EMI)- type powers. It had been a late insertion. She said that environmental pollution covered air, soil and water pollution. The problem was that DEAT handled air and soil pollution whereas water pollution fell within the realm of DWAF. The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) which created EMIs was DEAT legislation and water pollution was not covered in it. Hence DWAF officials did not have EMI powers which their colleagues in DEAT had. There was thus a gap in the enforcement of provisions for water pollution. The National Water Act did not have the same provisions. The proposed amendments allowed for the training of DWAF officials and for them to enjoy designations as EMIs.

The DWAF Director General, Ms Pam Yako, said that she agreed with sentiments expressed by Ms Yawitch. She did make the point that the amendments would strengthen DWAF’s ability to enforce water pollution provisions and would additionally strengthen compliance. She noted that DEAT’s system of EMIs had been a success and that DWAF wished to build on the strength of that.

Rev Moatshe asked how DEAT was dealing with land pollution.

Ms Yawitch responded that the Waste Bill had a chapter on soil contamination. The law was to deal with situations where land had been poisoned. She noted that the ability to deal with soil contamination had not been covered in agricultural legislation. Land and water pollution had been covered, the next step was mining. Mining pollution was to be covered in NEMA.

Ms Yawitch pointed out that a presentation on the proposed amendments had already been done previously.

The Chair nevertheless asked her to speak on the specific amendments relating to water.

Ms Yawitch stated that the first amendment was to expand the definition of a Specific Environmental Management Act (SEMA). The Bill as it stood already proposed the expansion of SEMA to include the existing Environment Conservation Act (ECA), the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (APPA) and certain provisions of National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (NEM:AQA). The current amendment proposes the inclusion of “the National Water Act, 1998 (Act No. 36 of 1998)” in the definition of a SEMA.

The second proposed amendment empowered the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry to designate DWAF officials as EMIs. The Minister would also have the power to withdraw such a designation.

Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumalanga) referred to the numbering that was being changed due to the amendments and said it was confusing.

Mr Herman Smuts, State Law Advisor, said that it was the way numbering was done. It was administrative. He noted that it was standard practice and that renumbering would follow automatically. Mr Smuts said that there were no substitutions, only an insertion.

The Chair asked the Committee whether it agreed to the proposed amendments.

The Committee agreed.

The Chair said that the proposed amendments would be forwarded to the provinces in order to obtain the provinces’ stance on them. The Committee would return for consideration of final mandates on the Bill.

Mr Watson asked what the legislative process now was.

The Committee Secretary said that the proposed amendments had already been agreed to by members in their negotiating mandates. The minutes of the present meeting would be forwarded to the provinces in order to provide clarification on those proposed amendments that were a late insertion. The Committee would consider final mandates on this Bill in the following week. The provinces were aware of the process and were satisfied with the arrangements. The present meeting was more or less a ratification of what members had already agreed to.

Committee Programme
The Committee considered its Third Term Draft Committee Programme. Concerns were raised over the programme as it extended well into September 2008. Members said that there had been suggestions that Parliament might close perhaps at the end of August 2008. The Committee agreed that the programme would be provisional and that members would be guided by the programme of Parliament.

Members also discussed when it would be best for the Committee to be briefed on the National Environmental Management Bill [B36-2007]. The Chair suggested that a briefing be scheduled for when parliament reconvened at the end of July 2008. It was not practically possible to schedule a briefing in the current session as much as the Committee would have liked to. The Committee agreed to the Chair’s suggestion.

The Committee adopted its minutes of the 10 June 2008.

The meeting was adjourned.


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