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Public Interest

Environmental Justice Issues

The South African Constitution and the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) promote public participation in environmental decision-making by bolstering legal standing to approach the Courts for relief, and by providing a measure of protection against adverse legal costs orders for litigants who act in the public interest.

In South Africa, the legacy of Apartheid has resulted in many historically disadvantaged communities being sited adjacent to heavy industry (such as in the South Durban Industrial Basin), resulting in these communities being exposed to the health and environmental impacts of pollution emanating from these industries. Today, the exigencies of a free-market capitalist economy can result in economic development (and in particular extractive or heavy industrial development) being favoured over the interests of ordinary people, while economically disadvantaged communities continue to live near polluting industries. Activists, interest groups and community based organisations continue to struggle against environmentally, socially and economically unsustainable new developments.

Adrian Pole’s involvement in public interest environmental issues began at the Legal Resources Centre’s (LRC) environmental justice project) and has included: acting for Earthlife Africa (Cape Town) in reviewing and setting aside the PBMR nuclear reactor EIA authorisation (Earthlife Africa Cape Town v Director-General: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and Another 2005 (3) SA 156 (C)); preventing the establishment of two medical waste incinerators at the Shongweni landfill site; opposing a 100 year landfill site near Shongweni; acting for the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance in reviewing and setting aside the EIA authorisation of multi-fuel burner in South Durban (South Durban Community Environmental Alliance v Head of Department (Department of Agriculture & Environmental Affairs) and Others 2003 (6) SA 631 D&CLD); and acting for Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute vs Minister of Energy and 5 Others, Case No. 19529/2015, in respect of which judgment was handed down in April 2017 reviewing and setting aside various decisions taken by the Minister of Energy, including decisions taken under s34 of the Electricity Regulation Act that 9.6GW of nuclear new generation capacity was needed and should be procured, the unlawful tabling in Parliament of an international governmental agreement (IGA) with the Russian Federation on strategic partnership and co-operation in relation to nuclear energy, and the unlawful tabling in Parliament of IGAs with the United States and South Korea.

See full judgment below:

File: Earthlife Africa Jhb +1 v Minister of Energy +5.pdf