Getting our Act together for better Environmental Legislation understanding
In celebration of International Day of Biological Diversity, which is annually marked on the 22nd of May, and Biodiversity month we hosted the first garden route skills-shop in Plettenberg Bay on the 12th of May.
During a brain storming session held in February this year, conservation stakeholders from across the Garden Route got together to map out the gaps in the management and protection of the environmental integrity of the region. One of the biggest gaps identified by all stakeholders was the lack of knowledge on environmental legislation and the process to enforce as well as participate in the judiciary system. In response to this, we kicked off the first part of a three year skills development and training program funded by the Table Mountain Fund (TMF) with an informative skills-shop about South African environmental law and a discussion about which of these law particularly pertain to our region.
With highly skilled and experienced facilitators from three different organisations namely; EcoAfrica, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP) and Cape Nature, we had fantastic presentations and expertly led discussion around issues of concern in the region. In pursuit of environmental, social and economic best practices, EcoAfrica is known for assisting communities and organisations right across Africa in sustainable and equitable outcomes and development. They were therefor in a perfect position to facilitate a session on the importance of environmental law, case studies showing how it works and how to apply it and the structure of implementing agencies on both a national and regional level.
DEA&DP provided an overview of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) regulations, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations and its processes as well as the Monitoring and Compliance processes of the department. They explained how members of the public can get involved and act as a ‘watchdog’ for the department in the area and what the process of starting an investigation entails. The roles and functions of the different directorates within the department are significantly different and DEA&DP also explained what the responsibilities of South African citizens are. They emphasized the importance of completing a “Compliant Form” to report suspected illegal activities and how it is used in the standard operation procedure.
Plettenberg Bay’s Cape Nature team concluded the information session with an overview of marine legislation and what marine conservation areas and efforts are in place in the Garden Route. They also explained the roles and responsibilities of the different conservation agencies and their jurisdictions along the Garden Route. The issues of subsistence, recreational and commercial fishing and the compliance measures in place to enforce best practices were also discussed.
A consolidation of the information session was facilitated by NVT and a dialogue opened to discuss issues that were pertinent to the participants. Some of the environmental legislative issues highlighted included: removal of alien vegetation on private property, bait collection compliance, lack of public awareness and how the public can get involved to mention a few. This skills-shop was the start of an ongoing process of creating environmentally literate citizens right throughout the Garden Route that will contribute to protecting the environmental integrity of the area.