Pollution Remediation and Protecting Biodiversity and Ecological Assets - Opportunities and Challenges within the Legal Framework, Compliance and Enforcement

Despite a world-class body of legislation in South Africa, the fragmentation of environmental governance, and a lack of resources to increase enforcement capacity, pose significant challenges to the effective management of ecosystems, protected areas, and biodiversity. The result is these are increasingly being taken advantage of to facilitate consumptive exploitation of natural resources. This special session aims to build an understanding of the culture of lawlessness towards environmental legislation by presenting: infographics of applicable legislation; case studies demonstrating the effect non-compliance has on natural resources both within South Africa and further afield; and innovative approaches towards rebuilding a culture of lawfulness.

There is a dangerous cocktail between a reduction in law-enforcement capacity, compliance, and literacy of environmental legislation driving an increase in lawlessness in relation to the environmental legislative framework. This framework should be the stronghold of protected areas, remote areas, and areas linking protected areas which play an integrated and critical role in biodiversity conservation for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. However, together with the fragmentation of environmental governance and a lack of resources to increase enforcement capacity, existing enforcement officials face increasing workloads and expanding roles to educate and facilitate community involvement towards compliance, placing further strain on the environmental governance system. These challenges coupled with broader societal discontent and economic issues create a need to develop innovative strategies to improve environmental governance in a way that mediates interactions between society, the economy, and the natural environment.

This session serves to understand these challenges, highlight the vulnerability of and threats to protected, critical biodiversity, and remote areas, and host discussions towards improved environmental governance. The following themes are considered integral:

  • inappropriate use of natural resources;
  • incompatible development and land transformation;
  • poor understanding and implementation of environmental legislation by planning authorities;
  • poor land use planning and impact assessment practices and ethics contributing to poor development decisions;
  • environmental legislation is fragmented across multiple different departments leading to confusion about where authority lies;
  • management of compliance, especially a paucity of effective and independent environmental compliance officers;
  • pliable legal systems which may be taken advantage of, particularly clauses such as National Environmental Management Act Section 24G, or partisan decision making by authorities and politicians, to open these areas up to unsustainable resource use; and
  • length of the process of transgressions, prosecutions, resolutions, etc.

Open session – researchers and practitioners are encouraged to submit relevant presentations for inclusion in this session. Participation in the session during the Symposium is open to all. Submissions that cannot be incorporated into the session by the convener will be considered for general sessions for the remainder of the programme.

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