Every person has the right to a non-harmful environment. In South Africa, the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) provides the framework for progressive decision-making for individuals, institutions and the government on environmental practices. This act defines the environment as the surroundings in which humans exist and includes the land, water and atmosphere. It goes on to state, in Section 24, that the government should play a role in protecting these surroundings.
Protecting our country through environmental management
According to the South African government website, we are one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Surrounded by two oceans, our country is home to almost 10% of the world’s plants; 7% of the reptiles, birds and mammals; and 15% of known coastal marine species. South Africa comprises nine biomes (unique vegetation landscapes), with three of these declared global biodiversity hotspots. Due to the huge biodiversity, we as South Africans need to protect our land and ourselves. NEMA promotes the concept of integrated environmental management which includes the testing of air, water and waste quality within specified environments.
Managing our water resources
A good example of environmental management is The National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998). This Act gives the Department of Water and Sanitation the tools to gather information for the management of our water resources. Water users in the following industries must register for a water use license; Irrigation, Industrial use, Power generation, Recreational purposes and Watering livestock. There are many more users who need to register for the water they use daily. It is important to understand the quality of your water to apply for the water use license.