1. To what extent have the principles of environmental law been incorporated in the Environmental Protection Act 2000
20TH MARCH, 2004.
The environment is made up of the physical, biological and human elements. These three are different facets of one and the same environment. Not only in recent years, the human environment has begun to impinge and burden the physical and biological environment. It is only in recent years that the public has been made aware of the seriousness of the matter. This awareness, has, not only led to changes in local legislation, but also to changes in the way the problem is approached. It is useless trying to solve environmental problems on a national basis as the environment is a global matter and should be dealt with internationally and therefore globally with all the countries aiming at one goal, a better environment for not only today’s generations but also for future generations.
The worldwide trend nowadays is towards sustainable development. That is, using the environment for present needs without compromising the rights of future generations, to a clean environment. This can only be done by insuring that future generations have the same access and availability to the environment as we do now. To ensure this access to the environment there must be some sort of planning. The sort of planning required is that to preserve the same quality and biodiversity we find today. The future generations have a right to the same diversity that we have at our disposal at present. The environment that they are born into must not be impoverished or tainted in any way. For environmental law to be possible and effective there must be an integrated approach. There must be the integration of socio-economic policies and environmental policies. Only this sort of integrated policy will be a success in the environmental field. An integrated approach seems extremely simple on paper, however it has proved to be hard to implement in reality.
Part I of the Environment Protection Act consists of the basic principles of environmental law which form the basis of the whole act. They are not enforceable in a court of law however they must be employed when interpreting any other provision in the Act or any other law relating to the protection of the environment. This is stated in article 5. A lot of Non-governmental Organizations have viewed this provision with disappointment because the principles laid down in Articles 3 and 4 of the Act are of fundamental importance and should be translated into substantive laws.
The principle of sustainability is introduced immediately in Article 3 which states that all persons have a duty to protect the environment. This provision of the law also includes a duty to assist in the taking of preventive and remedial measures. The legislature realizes that with regards to the environment, it does not have, and never will have the competence to tackle the problem alone. The environment is delicate balance that needs to be maintained; therefore there is the need for remedial actions for existing problems. The preventive action is of utmost importance to keep the balance. Once the public is aware of the problems at the moment, each person must do there best to prevent further damage to the environment and further damage to unique ecosystems.
“It shall be the duty of everyone together with the government to protect the environment and to assist in the taking of preventive and remedial measures to protect the environment and manage natural resources in a sustainable manner.”
Therefore each one of us together with the government has a duty to use any resource in a way that will ensure that it is available in the same quality for future generations. We will now tackle the four principles which are: 1) Sovereignty over natural resources and the environment in general. 2) The polluter-pays principle.
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