The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, No. 10
of 2004 (NEMBA) in section 52 provides that the Minister of Water
and Environmental Affairs (Minister) may publish a national list of
ecosystems that are threatened and in need of protection.
On 9 December 2011 the Minister exercised her discretion and
published a list of threatened ecosystems in the terrestrial
environment in GN 1002 GG 34809. The list, which provides that only
9.5% of natural areas remain in threatened terrestrial ecosystems
in South Africa, aims to reduce the rate of ecosystem and species
extinction in these areas.
The list includes: 53 critically endangered ecosystems, 53
endangered ecosystems and 107 vulnerable ecosystems.
Detail of the location and description of each listed threated
terrestrial ecosystem is provided, including the province(s) and
municipality(ies) in which the ecosystem is located. Reference is
also made to protection status of the ecosystem (ie if it falls
within a Nature Reserve, World Heritage Site, etc) and (where
possible) the known number of species of special concern found in
the ecosystem (ie red data animal and plant species).
Planning related implications - section 54 of NEMBA
provides that listed ecosystems must be taken into account when
environmental implementation / management plans are prepared by the
required National Departments in terms of Chapter 3 of the National
Environmental Management Act, No. 107 of 1998 (NEMA). Similarly,
integrated development plans, and by implication Spatial
Development Plans (SDPs), prepared by municipalities must take
these ecosystems into account. Zoning schemes will eventually be
aligned with such SDPs and therefore restrictive zoning categories
(eg industrial or commercial activities) may be included for listed
Environmental Authorisation implications - Activity 12
of the third list of the 2010 NEMA listed activities requires basic
assessment for the clearance of 300m˛ or more of vegetation
where 75% or more of the vegetative cover constitutes indigenous
vegetation within any listed critically endangered or endangered
ecosystem. When undertaking any project, clients must determine if
the project is to take place in a listed threatened ecosystem and
furthermore if an environmental authorisation will be required for
Implications going forward:
Proactive management of listed threatened ecosystems -
NEMBA provides that Biodiversity Management Plans may be developed,
published and implemented by a suitable person, organisation or
organ of state. The Minister may also enter into a Biodiversity
Management Agreement with such person to regulate the
implementation of these plans, which will set out how listed
threatened ecosystems should be managed.
Listing of further ecosystems - future threatened
ecosystems will be listed for freshwater, estuarine and marine
Listing of threatening processes - the Minister may
identify any process or activity in a listed ecosystem as a
threatening process (none identified in the list of threatened
terrestrial ecosystems). If published, engaging in any such
threatening process or activity in a listed threated ecosystem will
require prior NEMA environmental authorisation.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Two important principles of South African law collided head
on, with unsatisfactory consequences, when Chief Bareki (a
traditional leader acting on behalf of his tribe) and an
environmental concern group sued Gencor and certain
subsidiaries for the environmental clean up following
discontinued asbestos mining activities.
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