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The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) has been described as the backbone of South Africa’s environmental legislation. It is often used for the interpretation of ancillary legislation such as the Water Act, Air Quality Act, Biodiversity Act, and the Protected Areas Act.
NEMA and these surrounding acts aim to develop an efficient framework for sustainable development in our country. The Act assigns clear responsibilities for environmental and economic development. Any person has the authority to initiate legal action against a company that is not complying with the existing legal requirements. It can be done by any interested or concerned individual or entity.
This action can be extremely detrimental for a company who may not even be aware of such environmental, legal obligations. The aim is to create a more transparent process of environmental enforcement and exposure.
The central government and various organs of state, since 1996, have been appointing environmental management inspectors (colloquially known as the “Green Scorpions”). They were created in terms of Section 31 of NEMA and had been given the task of inspecting companies who were suspected to be involved in actions that may negatively affect the environment.
These “Green Scorpions” are a network of environmental compliance and enforcement officials from various levels of government. They all share the same legislative powers and duties in terms of NEMA. Their duties and their exercise of power influence must be in line with instructions issued by the Minister or the MEC.
Their ultimate function is to ensure compliance with environmental laws and ensure that there is no damage to, loss of, or deterioration of the environment.
Other duties include:
prosecutions for environmental wrongs
issuing of directives (compliance with a duty of care)
the monitoring and enforcing of compliance with environmental laws for which they have been designated
investigating an act or omission if there is a reasonable suspicion that the act or omission might constitute an offence or breach of such law
investigating the misuse of natural resources
investigating major pollution issues
The creation of these environmental agents puts greater emphasis on all firms to ensure environmental and legal compliance with South Africa’s laws.
All companies have a legal obligation to comply with existing health, safety and environmental legislation. Ensure and manage compliance with legislation effectively with IQ Dome.