5 October 2012

African environmental compliance

Research has shown that Africa is to be the most environmentally effected by climate change, making environmental protection on the continental crucial. However, there is still a marked lack of environmental compliance on the continent.

According to Sandra Gore, Director in the Environmental Practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, “The media has been consistently reporting on cases of lack of environmental compliance in Africa.  Recently, Zimbabwe was in the news for the government’s seizure of a massive, prized wildlife reserve in the country.  The privately-owned Save Valley Conservancy group says only people who are part of President Robert Mugabe's inner circle stand to benefit from the land grab.

Also recently reported in the media recently are the destructive methods used by thieves of crude oil in Ogoni land in Nigeria.  These methods have further ruined fishing habitats and contaminated water already degraded by decades of oil production in the area.  The United National Environment Programme (UNEP) said it would take 30 years and an initial $1billion to clean up the dangerous levels of pollution and environmental degradation in Ogoni land.

“The Tanzania daily news regularly reports on Tanzania's Development Vision 2025, an initiative that aims to achieve an absence of abject poverty and attaining high quality of life for all Tanzanians.  Section 3.3 of the vision gives emphasis to the need to reverse current trends in the loss and degradation of environment resources (such as forests, fishery, fresh water, climate, soils, biodiversity) and in the accumulation of hazardous substances,” she says.

Gore says that according to UNEP, the Tana River Basin in Kenya has experienced degradation in the upper catchment area, which is adversely affecting the quality and quantity of water. To address these issues, the report said organisations brought together by the Water Resources Management Authority planned to establish the Tana Basin Coordination and Information Platform.  Oil pollution in Nigeria and extensive deforestation of the natural forest of Uganda are also often reported.

“African countries each have their own environmental laws, as well as constitutional rights, that serve to protect the environment, despite varying in effectiveness.  In addition, guidelines set out by the World Bank, as well as the Equator Principles, outline sustainable development principles that developers seeking finance for African projects must follow. However, the lack of application of  environmental legislation in many African countries (save for South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, for example) means the continent may have to look the world to provide precedent on tested environmental cases.  

“In this regard, South Africa has many judgments that can be used as examples of how African countries can interpret and give force to their environmental legislation. South Africa is ranked as having one of the strongest environmental law frameworks worldwide.  It has a strong constitutional right for environmental protection, and environmental legislation covering many environmental aspects such as waste, water, heritage, mining rehabilitation and air emissions,” she adds.

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