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Envi­ron­ment

 
Environment

The objec­tive of the LRC’s Envi­ron­ment work is to equip South Africa’s civil soci­ety to par­tic­i­pate effec­tively in envi­ron­men­tal gov­er­nance in order to pro­tect the envi­ron­men­tal rights enshrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion. The LRC pro­vides improved legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and tech­ni­cal sup­port for envi­ron­men­tal organ­i­sa­tions as well as vul­ner­a­ble and mar­gin­alised com­mu­ni­ties.

We seek to enhance envi­ron­men­tal decision-making by pro­mot­ing effec­tive and informed pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion and access to infor­ma­tion. The main mech­a­nisms employed are lit­i­ga­tion, rep­re­sen­ta­tion of clients dur­ing admin­is­tra­tive pro­ce­dures, net­work­ing, edu­ca­tion in the law and law reform.

Our envi­ron­men­tal work focuses on address­ing the impact of devel­op­ment activ­i­ties that are likely to affect the health, liveli­hood and well-being of mar­gin­alised and poor peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties. It exam­ines decision-making relat­ing to mainly new indus­trial activ­i­ties, as well as address­ing harm caused to the envi­ron­ment and health by past poorly reg­u­lated activ­i­ties. The the­matic issues include fos­ter­ing sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and enforce­ment of best prac­tice in licens­ing new activ­i­ties as well as in reha­bil­i­ta­tion of envi­ron­men­tal harm, and pro­mot­ing safety and health at the work­place. Our work typ­i­cally involves rep­re­sent­ing clients in envi­ron­men­tal impact assess­ment (EIA) processes for the autho­ri­sa­tion of new indus­tries, lit­i­ga­tion com­pelling the reha­bil­i­ta­tion of min­ing activ­i­ties, and engag­ing in law reform around our key focus areas.

In all this, the pro­tec­tion of pub­lic health and envi­ron­ment through the proper pro­tec­tion of water resources is key. In the past, we have focused on air qual­ity and the pre­ven­tion of envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters. Our spe­cific focus will be in the areas of reha­bil­i­ta­tion of mind dumps, and autho­ri­sa­tion of new indus­trial and farm­ing activ­ity where air and water qual­ity may be com­pro­mised.

The LRC aims to con­tribute to the fol­low­ing:

  • Effec­tive and con­struc­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in EIA processes con­cern­ing the activ­i­ties of poten­tially harm­ful indus­tries and activ­i­ties (includ­ing incin­er­a­tors).
  • Greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in regional air qual­ity plan­ning to address the incre­men­tal and cumu­la­tive effects of multi-source pol­lu­tion on the ambi­ent air qual­ity and human health.
  • Greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in water resource man­age­ment processes to ensure sus­tain­abil­ity of the resource and plan­ning processes in the inter­est of equi­table access to this scare resource.
  • Address­ing the envi­ron­men­tal impli­ca­tions of min­ing and gen­eral man­age­ment of waste.-
  • Con­tribut­ing to the law reform process by mak­ing sub­mis­sions on amend­ments to leg­is­la­tion and pro­posed new leg­is­la­tion.
  • Pro­vid­ing legal and tech­ni­cal exper­tise to com­mu­ni­ties that have no other recourse to the law to achieve the abate­ment of pol­lu­tion and harm caused by pol­lut­ing and envi­ron­men­tally unsus­tain­able prac­tices.
  • Research and develop strate­gies avail­able to those affected to address envi­ron­men­tal injus­tice, degra­da­tion of the envi­ron­ment and inequitable and unsus­tain­able nat­ural resource util­i­sa­tion.

The LRC is the only pub­lic inter­est envi­ron­men­tal law prac­tice in South Africa that pro­vides these ser­vices to those who are unable to afford to pay. We inter­act with other pub­lic inter­est envi­ron­men­tal law organ­i­sa­tions as well as com­mu­ni­ties affected by envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems. Feed­back from this kind of inter­ac­tion and the active inter­est of the lawyers allows us to struc­ture our work in a way that most effec­tively addresses the envi­ron­men­tal issues of pub­lic inter­est.

The LRC works in the fol­low­ing broad areas:

  • Air qual­ity and water qual­ity in pri­or­ity areas where air and water qual­ity is com­pro­mised
  • Min­ing related envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems
  • The EIA process for pro­posed new nuclear power plants
  • Pro­tect­ing pro­ce­dural rights in the EIA process in a num­ber of indi­vid­ual cases
  • Med­ical waste man­age­ment
  • Large indus­trial processes impact­ing on the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment
  • The right to infor­ma­tion on genet­i­cally mod­i­fied organ­isms.

Over the past ten years, we have achieved the fol­low­ing results, amongst oth­ers:

  • A reduc­tion in sul­phur diox­ide emis­sions in all four oil refiner­ies in South Africa and nego­ti­a­tion of an emis­sion reduc­tion plan with some
  • Reha­bil­i­ta­tion of aban­doned mine sites affect­ing the health and well-being of nearby com­mu­ni­ties
  • Judi­cial review of mine per­mits granted with very lenient mea­sures for envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion
  • Clo­sure of ille­gal min­ing oper­a­tions
  • Nego­ti­a­tion of envi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment plans with large indus­trial devel­op­ments
  • Pre­ven­tion of autho­ri­sa­tion for med­ical waste incin­er­a­tors with­out suf­fi­cient air pol­lu­tion con­trol devices
  • Active rep­re­sen­ta­tion of civil soci­ety in law reform processes, lead­ing to the inclu­sion of issues impor­tant to clients in the National Envi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Act (NEMA), revised EIA reg­u­la­tions and the Air Qual­ity Act
  • Nego­ti­at­ing a reduc­tion in lead and sul­phur lev­els in fuel
  • Suc­cess­ful lit­i­ga­tion over­turn­ing autho­ri­sa­tion granted for devel­op­ment of a nuclear power plant where inter­ested and affected par­ties were not given oppor­tu­nity to be heard on the final EIA.

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National Offices

Tel: +27 11 836 9831
Email: info@lrc.org.za

Address: 15th and 16th Floor, Bram Fis­cher Tow­ers,
20 Albert Street, Mar­shall­town, Johan­nes­burg
PO Box 9495, Johan­nes­burg 2000

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