Environmental law: what is it and why is it important?

environmental law

We live in a time wherein people worry about their carbon footprint and the mark they are leaving on the planet. Environmental law plays a huge part in protecting people, resources, habitats, animals, and more. Without these types of laws in place, there would be no regulations regarding the concerns of hunting, pollution, contamination, or even proper responses to disasters. Read more as MFM Attorneys dives deeper into what Environmental law is.  

What is Environmental Law?

Environmental law is a diverse collection of laws, regulations, agreements and common law that governs how humans interact with the environment. It covers areas such as climate control, pollution, source of energy, and even social and corporate responsibility. 

The National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 states that it intends to provide for cooperative, environmental governance by establishing principles for decision-making on matters affecting the environment. It also states it intends to provide for matters connected with it.

Why is Environmental law important?

The purpose of Environmental law is to protect the environment and create rules for how people can use natural resources. It covers topics important to the health and safety of the planet, including:

Air Quality – It discusses laws to protect the air from pollution and may include measures to protect the air from things like ozone depletion.

Water Quality – This includes laws that may protect water from pollution. They may also determine who can use water and how to handle potential problems like treating wastewater and managing surface runoff.

Waste Management – Municipal waste, hazardous substances, and nuclear waste all fall within this category.

Contaminant Cleanup – Environmental law doesn’t solely focus on preventing pollution. Contaminant cleanup deals with addressing pollution after it happens. This may include laws on protocols for cleanup as well as civil and criminal punishment for polluters.

Chemical Safety – These safety regulations manage pesticide use and chemicals in products like plastic bottles.

Hunting and fishing – Environmental laws may regulate and protect wildlife populations. These laws determine who can hunt and fish and how these activities are regulated.

Environmental legislation in South Africa

South Africa is one of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world. The environmental legislation is aimed at achieving sustainable development and the conservation and management of the country’s rich natural resources. This includes laws that support public participation, impact assessment and environmental management. ​

The right to a clean environment that is not harmful to one’s health and well-being and is protected for future generations in the South African Constitution. Furthermore, the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), which was passed in June of 2022, imposes a general duty of care on all persons to take reasonable measures to avoid or to minimise and rectify, significant harm to the environment.​

For more information on laws set by the government to protect the environment contact MFM Attorneys.