Laws passed in 2001 that made it illegal for 4x4 vehicles to drive on South Africa's beaches have now been amended to allow disabled persons to use off-road vehicles to gain access to the oceans.
Disabled persons will be able to apply for a permit that will be valid for three years to allow them to travel on the beach. Speaking on the amendments, environmental affairs and tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk warned, "There will be no general lifting of the 4x4 ban, it's not going to happen."
Film crews, researchers and fishermen participating in angling competitions may also apply for permits under the new amendments. Guidelines on the amended regulations will soon be published, but the amendments were made with immediate effect.
The development of inland 4x4 routes and tracks may also need authorisation once the ministry of environmental affairs and tourism develops further regulations designed to protect the environment. The beach ban is said to have led to the recovery of species like the ghost crab and the leatherback turtle.
In order to ensure that the disabled community has more say in environmental issues, the national director of the Quadriplegic Association of South Africa, Ari Seirlis, has been appointed to the new National Environmental Advisory Forum that will be launched next year.