The Environmental Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from 10 African countries on topics relating to environmental law, both substantive and procedural. The collection focuses on cases where an environmental interest interacts with governmental or private interests.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-area expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
Read also JIFA's Environmental Country Reports for SADC
The appellant sought leave to appeal the respondent’s refusal to allow access to information concerning the use of a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) for generating electricity.
The court determined the limitations of the right to information in s 32 of the constitution and the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000; and whether the respondent was right in relying on the limitations to deny the applicants access to the information.
The court held that the right to information is not absolute since it is limited by the right to privacy as per s 36 of the constitution. The court determined whether the information required by the appellant fell within the exceptions in the act.
The court also noted that this was a technical matter that required expert evidence since experts are better qualified to draw inferences in such matters than the judicial officer. The court observed that only the respondent brought expert evidence.
The court applied s 42(3)(a) of the Information Act that entitles the respondent to refuse a request for access to a record that contains trade secrets. It found that the respondent had proved its case and that the research requested by the appellant was protected from disclosure.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an appeal against the condition attached by the respondent, to its approval of a housing project.
The appellant intended to build a seven storey building, but the respondent restricted it to four. The appellant contended that the limitation placed on the number of storeys and refusal to allow construction for residential floors, below ground level, was unlawful, which had already been approved by the city council.
Upon request to the tribunal, residents of the area were enjoined to the appeal as interested parties, arguing that the appellant’s development did not respect the stipulated environment, and planning regulations, that permitted only a maximum of four storey buildings in Zone 4, where the proposed construction was located.
The tribunal considered whether the limitations placed on the construction were justified. It held that the respondent had the authority to impose conditions that it deemed necessary to prevent and/or reduce negative environmental impacts that might result from an activity, and therefore had the lawful authority to regulate the appellant’s activity.
Under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) and the regulations made under it, the respondent’s authority superseded that of the city council and any action the Council may have taken regarding the proposed development. The tribunal found that the city council’s approval was not lawful. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
The court considered an appeal against the first respondent’s approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Project Report, submitted by the second respondent, in support of its application for the development of a housing estate.
The appellant contended that the housing estate was located in an industrial area with high levels of air and noise pollution, among others, and that a full EIA study ought to have been conducted.
During the course of the trial, it became evident that the Appellant objected to this proposed development, due to its concern that the proposed development, would introduce a conflict between its commercial activities within its premises, and the use of neighboring property for residential purposes.
The tribunal observed that the purpose of the EIA licensing process as prescribed by the Environmental Management and Coordination Act of 1999 and the Environmental (Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations, Legal Notice No 101 of 2003 was to assess the likely significant impacts of a proposed project on the environment.
The tribunal found that the alleged serious health risks on account of the high levels of pollution in the area were not substantiated by credible evidence, and as such the first respondent was justified in rating approval. Further, the tribunal held that there was no evidence to show that this project would adversely impact on the environment in ways that could not be mitigated by the measures that had been proposed by the project proponent in the EIA project report.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.