South Africa - National Environmental Management Act

    South Africa

    South Africa - National Environmental Management Act

    The National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 (‘the Act’) as amended, establishes the requirements and principles for institutions concerned with decision-making on matters affecting the environment to ensure good environmental management in all development activities. 

    Last Updated: July 24, 2019


  • Requirements

    In relation to the assessment of the environmental impact of an activity, any person, group of persons or organisation interested in or affected by such operation or activity, and any organ of state that may have jurisdiction over any aspect of the operation or activity is considered an interested and affected party to which duties apply. 

    Under Section 2 of the Act, it is the duty of such parties to ensure that any development is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable and that a risk-averse approach is applied through the minimisation, prevention or remedy of all relevant factors, including: 

    • the disturbance of ecosystems and biodiversity; 
    • the pollution and degradation of the environment; 
    • the disturbance of landscapes and cultural heritage sites; 
    • waste disposal; and 
    • the use and exploitation of renewable natural resources rather than non-renewable natural resources. 

    Further requirements stipulated under Section 2 include: 

    • the integration of environment management decisions, as all elements of the environment are linked; 
    • the interested and affected parties’ responsibility for the environmental health and safety consequences of a policy, programme, project, product, process, service or activity remains throughout its life cycle; 
    • considering the interests, needs and values of all interested and affected parties; 
    • recognising the right of workers to refuse work that is harmful to human health or the environment; 
    • promoting environmental awareness; 
    • the costs of controlling, minimising and remedying environmental damage must be paid for by those responsible for the harm; 
    • promoting the role of women and youth in environmental management; 
    • specific attention must be paid to sensitive, vulnerable, highly dynamic or stressed ecosystems; and 
    • preparing an environmental implementation plan upon request of a national department or province. 

    According to Section 49A, it is considered an offence: 

    • to commence an activity without an environmental authorisation from the competent authority, or to commence a waste management activity without a waste management licence. The competent authorities may cease, modify or control the activity, compile a report, or issue an administrative fine not more than R5 million (approx. 322,000)It is considered a defence to show that the activity was commenced in order to protect human life, property or environment; 
    • to contravene a condition of a granted environmental authorisation; 
    • to unlawfully and intentionally or negligently commit any act or omission which causes or is likely to detrimentally affect, pollute or degrade the environment. 

    Penalties for convictions of such offences do not exceed a monetary fine of R10 million (approx. 645,000) or a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. 

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