On November 1, 2005, when the new Protected Areas Act came into effect, more than 600 Sanparks environmental management inspectors (EMI) were designated. This followed the designation of the first 26 EMIs by the minister of environmental affairs and tourism (DEAT), Marthinus van Schalkwyk in June 2005.
These were the words of Pam Yako, director general of DEAT, at the environmental enforcement conference that was held in Durban in February this year. This was the first conference of its kind held for environmental law enforcement role players and had as its theme: "Stepping up enforcement: new powers, tools and networks."
She also indicated that within the next three months, members of executive committees (MECs) in the various provinces will start appointing EMIs in provinces as well. "By mid-2006, we expect there to be at least 800 designated EMIs across the country." According to the dedicated environmental management inspectorate website, the inspectorate is a network of environmental enforcement officials from different government departments, including municipal structures.
"It was created when an amendment to the National Environmental Management Act, 107 of 1998 (Nema) came into effect on May 1, 2005. In term of the Act, EMIs must monitor compliance with and enforce specific environmental legislation that they have been mandated to enforce in their designations by the Minister or their MECs. These could include a range of legislation depending on their particular functions and encompass:
- Nema (including all regulations promulgated under Nema)
- The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004
- The National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 57 of 2004 And National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 39 of 2004 (when section 60 of this Act is brought into effect). The range and powers of EMIs range from routine inspections, investigations (questioning witnesses, removing articles or substances, taking photographs and samples) to enforcement (search and seizure of premises, vessels, vehicles, arrest, etc) and administrative powers.
Not all EMIs have the same powers or all of the above powers, but are organised into a ranking system, depending on experience, qualification and seniority." According to the website the EMIs are popularly known as ‘Green Scorpions', but differ from the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) as they are not a structured unit, "but a network of environmental officials based in different institutions across the spheres of government."
At the conference, Yako emphasised the need to support EMIs across the country. She said one of the tools to do so is a "brand new tip-off line, which we call our Environmental Crimes and Incident hotline – 0800 205 005. This tip-off line operates 24 hours a day. Our commitment is that all reports will be logged and either investigated by officials in my department, or referred to the appropriate department in provincial or local government for investigation," she said.
Yako also emphasised that one of the key challenges is to map out a strategy of engaging communities in enforcement and compliance initiatives. "We will not achieve anything with our grand plans if we do not work in partnership with our communities."