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Green laws take no prisoners

Publish date: 13 September 2011
Issue Number: 229
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
Category: Legislation

'The National Environmental Management Act (Nema) regulations require the Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) to be independent,' write Garlicke and Bousfield on the Moneyweb site.

'Nema and its regulations provide for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be conducted to ascertain the impact that a particular 'listed' activity will have on the environment, and to assess the risks involved,' the law firm explains. 'What, however, if the information placed before the authorities is incomplete or fraudulent?' they ask. 'In a recent criminal case the North Gauteng Regional Division of the Magistrates Court had to decide whether an EAP had been fraudulent in making representations contained within his assessment or had contravened the EIA regulations by submitting incorrect or misleading information that a wetland did not exist on a site for a development whereas, in fact, it did,' they explain. Mpofu Environmental Solutions CC compiled a Basic Assessment Report (BAR) which expressly stated that a 'river stream or wetland does not occur within a 500m radius of the site'. On the strength of this, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), granted the go-ahead to develop the site. Construction began but was later stopped due to construction difficulties being experienced on site and concerns were raised regarding the possible existence of a wetland on site. The court found that the State had not proved that the accused had been fraudulent in his activities but convicted him in his personal capacity and Mpofu Environmental Solutions CC, of contravening the EIA regulations. The DEA must be commended for its commitment to uphold the provisions of the EIA Regulations as well as sounding a warning to all EAP's that non-compliance with the regulations and incorrect or deficient representations will be dealt with vigorously, note Garlicke & Bousfield. 'This case also emphasises the need for experienced and capable professionals to conduct the assessments to ensure that correct information is placed before the authority to enable the best decision in each particular case to be made,' they go on to say. Full Moneyweb report Nema