The role of the environment within the Constitution of South Africa was discussed in our first blog. Ultimately, Section 24 of the Constitution provides the right to every person for a non-harmful environment and simultaneously mandates the government to protect the environment. The framework to enforce Section 24 of the Constitution is the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998).

The NEMA is a progressive environmental management legislation in South Africa and globally. It has provided the framework for decision-making for individuals, institutions, and government. The NEMA defines its key principles in Chapter One, which are aimed at promoting co-operative governance and ensuring that the rights of people are upheld, while at the same time recognising the importance of economic development. The predecessor to the NEMA, the Environmental Conservation Act, was largely unsuccessful or inadequate to deal with enforcement, administration, governance and so forth. The NEMA was developed to succeed in these aspects and more.

The NEMA defines the environment as the surroundings in which humans exist and includes the land, water and atmosphere. In addition, it includes the interrelationships, combinations, properties and conditions of all organisms that exist within the surroundings. This extremely broad definition of the environment ties into the concept of integrated environmental management, which the NEMA promotes. The NEMA is not able to specify how each component of the environment is legislated, as such, a significant amount of environmental legislation stems from the NEMA, including the Air Quality Act and Waste Act (which will be discussed in later blogs).

When people contact our team of environmental experts, we use NEMA to guide the advice we provide. Many times, our clients need to stop an environmental hazard from taking place or continuing, enforce an environmental law on government or a company or ensure that they comply with the relevant legislation. If you have a question about environmental management, then contact our environmental experts today.