July 8, 2005

New law to protect environment

Companies violating environmental regulations face a fine of up to R5m or 10 years in prison, following the expiry of government's "window period" for offenders.
Under new law, companies need permission for the construction and upgrading of infrastructure such as communication networks, including masts, towers, reflector dishes, marine telecommunications lines and cables. The National Environmental Management Second Amendment Act requires all companies with operations considered harmful to the environment to seek government authorisation. Construction and upgrading of underground cables, used mainly in the mining industry, are also listed among the environmentally harmful activities. Other activities listed include the construction and upgrading of racing tracks, disposal of water used for industrial purposes and industrial activities which involve use of sulphur trioxide.
The act came into effect in January, but offenders were given a six-month "window period" to apply for rectification of their unlawful activities.
The legislation gives the MEC in the different provinces powers to order companies that violate the act to demolish or cease their operations and rehabilitate environment degraded by their activities. Spokesman for the Gauteng agriculture, conservation and environment department Sizwe Matshikiza said that about 2000 companies had applied so far. "The applicants include major industrial, oil and petroleum and mining companies," he said. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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