The conceptualisation of environmental justice within the context of the South African constitution

Feris, Loretta Annelise (2000-12)

Thesis (LLD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The aim of this dissertation is to conceptualise the principle of "environmental justice". In doing so it attempts to determine its meaning, assess its possible use for the protection of environmental rights in the light of the South African Bill of Rights, and draw, in a comparative manner, on examples from two other jurisdictions, namely the United States of America (USA) and India. In the first part of the study "environmental justice" is defined and thereafter the ways in which the idea of "environmental justice" has found expression in the USA and Indian jurisprudence as well as in legislative and administrative practices in these two countries are analysed comparatively. In reviewing the US experience the study concludes that the courts have shown a conspicuous measure of self-restraint in the conceptualisation of environmental justice. Due to its non-activist and formalistic approach, the judiciary has failed to address systemic environmental inequities, and to carve out remedies whereby environmental injustice could have been dealt with in an effective and meaningful way. The more activist approach of the Indian judiciary, on the other hand, has led to more effective protection of the environment and of people adversely affected by environmental degradation. The judiciary has imposed positive obligations on the state to carry out its social duties as laid down in the Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution. Although India does not have a constitutionally entrenched environmental right, the courts have interpreted the right to life proactively so as to include quality of life. The study concludes by examining possible applications of the principle of environmental justice for the protection of environmental rights in South Africa, assessing the law as it stands and exploring new avenues in the light of the Bill of Rights. In this respect the following guidelines are proposed by this study: o Environmental problems in South Africa must be placed within their specific historical and political context. Consequently environmental injustice must be understood as a form of inequity that impacts on people disproportionately on the basis of race and socio-economic status. The concept "environment" can therefore not be narrowly understood, whether it is being dealt with in the Constitution, legislation or common law. It must be recognised that the concept goes beyond ecosystems and that it includes a multiplicity of relationships, in many of which humans are the focal point. o Environmental justice claims in South Africa may best be framed as constitutional claims. Regard should be had not only to the environmental right in section 24 of the Constitution, but also to other rights that support the notion of environmental justice, such as the rights to life, equality and dignity. o Judicial activism is a key to the promotion of environmental justice. The judiciary plays an important role in ensuring that the state and other actors fulfil their obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights. Transformation requires a judiciary that is prepared to reconsider the traditional boundaries of the doctrine of separation of powers and to lay down directives for other branches of government, in particular the executive.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie proefskrif is om die beginsel "omgewingsgeregtigheid" te konsepsualiseer. Die studie poog dus om die betekenis van hierdie beginsel, sowel as die moontlike gebruik daarvan in die beskerming van omgewingsregte vas te stel in die lig van die Suid Afrikaanse Handves van Regte. Verder poog die studie om deur middel van regsvergelyking insigte te bekom uit voorbeelde in twee jurisdiksies, die Verenigde State van Amerika en Indië. "Omgewingsgeregtigheid" word in die eerste deel van die proefskrif gedefinieer. In die tweede deel word die wyse waarop omgewingsgeregtigheid uitdrukking vind in Amerikaanse en Indiese reg, sowel as in statutêre en administratiewe praktyk vergelykend geanaliseer. In die beoordeling van die Amerikaanse ervaring word tot die slotsom gekom dat die howe 'n ooglopende mate van selfbeheersing toon in die konsepsualisering van omgewingsgeregtigheid. As gevolg van die regsbank se nie-aktivistiese en formalistiese benadering, het dit in gebreke gebly om sistemiese omgewingsongelykhede aan te spreek, en om remedies te ontwikkel wat omgewingsgeregtigheid op 'n effektiewe en betekenisvolle wyse aanspreek. Die aktivistiese benadering van die Indiese regsbank aan die ander kant, lei tot meer effektiewe beskerming van die omgewing en diegene wat nadelig geaffekteer word deur omgewingsbeskadiging. Die regsbank plaas positiewe verpligtinge op die staat sodat die staat sy sosiale pligte kan nakom soos bepaal in die Direktiewe Beginselsin die Indiese Grondwet. Alhoewel Indië nie oor 'n grondwetlik verskanste omgewingsreg beskik nie, het die howe die reg op lewe pro-aktief geinterpreteer sodat dit ook die reg op lewenskwaliteit insluit. Die studie ondersoek verder die moontlike toepassings van die beginsel van omgewingsgeregtigheid vir die beskerming van omgewingsregte in Suid Afrika. Dit beoordeel die huidige reg en ondersoek nuwe rigtings in die lig van die Handves van Regte. In hierdie opsig word die volgende riglyne neergelê in hierdie studie: o Omgewingsprobleme in Suid Afrika moet binne 'n spesifieke historiese en politieke raamwerk geplaas word. Gevolglik moet omgewingsongeregtigheid verstaan word as 'n vorm van onbillikheid wat mense op grond van ras en sosioekonomiese status benadeel. D Die konsep "omgewing" behoort dus nie beperkend geinterpreteer te word nie, hetsy dit gebruik word in die grondwet, wetgewing of die gemene reg. Erkenning moet gegeeword daaraan dat die begrip wyer is as ekosisteme en dat dit 'n veelvoud van verhoudings insluit, baie waarvan mense die middelpunt vorm. D Eise rakende omgewingsgeregtigheid in Suid Afrika moet beskou word as grondwetlike eise. Nie net kom die omgewingsreg vervat in artike124 van die Grondwet ter sprake nie, maar ook aan ander regte soos die reg op lewe, gelykheid en menswaardigheid wat omgewingsgeregtigheid ondersteun. D Regterlike aktivisme is die sleutel tot die bevordering van omgewingsgregtigheid. Die regsbank speel 'n belangrike rol deurdat dit moet verseker dat die staat en ander rolspelers hul plig nakom om die regte in die Handves van Regte te respekteer, te beskerm en te bevorder. Transformasie vereis dus 'n regsbank wat bereid is om die tradisionele grense van die beginsel van magskeiding te heroorweeg en om riglyne neer te lê vir ander takke van die regering, spesifiek die uitvoerende gesag.

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