Environmental Law 8 - The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act
- What are the objectives of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act No. 10 of 2004)?
- Who is the authority in terms of NEMBA?
- What does NEMBA mean for landowners?
The objectives of the Act are to provide for: the management and conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity within the framework of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998
- The protection of species and ecosystems that warrant national protection
- The sustainable use of indigenous biological resources
- The fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from bioprospecting involving indigenous biological resources
- The establishment and functions of a South African National Biodiversity Institute
In essence, the Act was put in place to safeguard the important biodiversity attributes in the country, whilst allowing people to benefit equally from the natural resources. In order to achieve these goals, the Act made provision for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), which has been designated certain functions and has been afforded powers and duties in respect of this Act. For example, SANBI is responsible for monitoring and reporting on:
- The status of the Republic’s biodiversity
- The conservation status of all listed threatened or protected species and listed ecosystems
- The status of all listed invasive species
This information serves to inform government on biodiversity-related issues and allows for pro-active decision-making to preserve our biodiversity heritage. SANBI is also actively involved in planning processes in the country, such as advising on Bioregional Plans and Biodiversity Planning. The Institute also collects, generates, processes, coordinates and disseminates information about biodiversity and the sustainable use of indigenous biological resources, and can also be approached for biodiversity advice (although Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife should be your first port of call in KwaZulu-Natal).
The Minister may in terms of NEMBA publish a national list of ecosystems that are threatened and in need of protection. Categories are defined as Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, and Protected, depending on their ecological structure, function and composition. For example, Coastal Grasslands are Critically Endangered due to the high degree of transformation and invasive alien plant infestation. In the Midlands, Mistbelt Grasslands are Endangered. The same categories have been applied to plants and animals, the latter being valued on the likelihood of extinction. For example, the Wattled Crane is Critically Endangered. A list of threatened ecosystems and species can be obtained from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
NEMBA also imposes a Duty of Care relating to listed invasive species. For example, a person working with invasive species must take all the required steps to prevent or minimise harm to biodiversity. Furthermore, a person who is the owner of land on which a listed invasive species occurs must (i) notify the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, in writing, of the listed invasive species occurring on that land, (ii) take steps to control and eradicate the listed invasive species and to prevent it from spreading, and (iii) take all the required steps to prevent or minimise harm to biodiversity. The landowner may be given a directive to remedy such pollution. This is just one of the applications of NEMBA.
The sustainable and equitable utilization of biodiversity resources will be the focus of the next article. The author will not be held responsible for misinterpretation of the law, and strongly recommends that readers consult their local DAEA branch for clarification.
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