Environmental governance at the local government sphere in South Africa

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    There has been a relatively systematic and ordered development of the environmental legal regime in the past 17 years in South Africa. The first dedicated piece of legislation was the Environmental Conservation Act, 100 of 1982. However it was not particularly effective as it sought to co–ordinate environmental matters as opposed to focusing on environmental management (Glazewski 1999:13). It was replaced by the Environmental Conservation Act, 73 of 1989 which provided an impetus for equitable development and environmental protection. The Act is based on the Constitution, 1996 to promote the notion of co-operative environmental governance which constitutes the basis of South Africa’s environmental legislation. Critical to the process are four basic principles, namely fairness, accountability, responsibility and transparency. A particular focus is spreading the responsibility for the interconnection between social well-being and environmental protection across state departments and spheres of government. Considerable emphasis is placed on citizens’ rights to be granted opportunities for effective democratic and economic involvement in future development processes (Hamman and O’Riordan 1999:3). The Act provided an enabling framework for far-reaching reform in environmental governance and can be viewed as a flagship statute of the National Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT). This article critically reviews the legislative and administrative arrangements for environmental governance in the local sphere of government in South Africa, highlighting challenges that have to be addressed. The principles of cooperative governance and particularly the role of local government in responding to local environmental issues will also be critically reviewed.