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Just because the word “rehabilitation” appears in the South African National Environmental Management Act, Act 107 of 1998 (NEMA), does not mean that it happens, or that there are institutional structures or mechanisms in place to ensure active rehabilitation of environmental degradation. The NEMA does not call for the proactive rehabilitation of environmental degradation, but only for enforcement-driven rehabilitation where an environmental crime has been committed. This means that where environmental degradation or pollution has taken place historically (i.e. before the legislation came into effect) there is no legal framework, organisation, or mechanism to proactively rehabilitate this damage. Similarly, where activities that may once have caused environmental damage have been abandoned (i.e. there is no legal person continuing with the activity), again there is no legal framework, organisation, or mechanism that will ensure the environmental degradation is stopped, mitigated, or rehabilitated. The result of a lack of framework has resulted in extreme, cumulative environmental damage. Without supporting legislation, the rehabilitation activities are viewed as “new developments” and must crawl through the same onerous, complex, and costly authorising process as an actual environmentally degrading activity (e.g. dredging a wetland or mining). Ultimately, rehabilitation of environmental degradation is not carried out, and only to a limited effect under enforcement driven rehabilitation. Of relevance, the South African legislation has been replicated in other countries in Africa. This paper highlights the pitfalls and resultant impacts of a lack of policy framework for rehabilitation and makes suggestions on the way forward.
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019
Society for Ecological Restoration