An assessment of local government capacity in KwaZulu-Natal to implement the National Environmental Management : Air Quality Act.
The radical shift in approach to the Air Quality Management (AQM) strategy that has been introduced recently, through the promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (AQA), makes provision for a number of innovative measures in the control of air pollution in South Africa. These include the appointment of Air Quality Officers, the development of Air Quality Management Plans, the designation of priority areas, the provision for stricter enforcement conditions, and the broad implementation of monitoring. A significant change is in the form of delegating the greatest responsibility for implementation of measures to the local government tier, comprised of metropolitan areas, district and local municipalities. Local authorities are recognised as a sphere of government, however, they are impeded, inter alia, by matters of limited financial resources, lack of skills capacity, and the slow transformation of organisational culture and structure (Cloete, 2002). The implementation ofthe AQA by local government is framed by an understanding ofthe responsibilities of local government, as well as the principal components of AQM and their implementation. The selected areas for study are Uthungulu, Uthukela, and Ugu district municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal, representing administrative and geographical variation. Existing and potential air quality issues, and their plans to address these issues, were identified and assessed in the municipalities using the Integrated Development Plans. The capacity of municipalities to implement the AQA was assessed using interviews, focusing on the interpretation of the AQA, technical capabilities, and implementation of AQM. Awareness of municipal responsibilities under the AQA was limited, although advances in AQM implementation had been made by municipalities. Responsibilities reflecting technical measures or activities that were currently undertaken by the municipality, such as monitoring and enforcement, were well recognised. However, the related policy and management tools, of Air Quality Officer (AQO) appointment and Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) development, were less emphasised by municipal respondents. Limited progress in implementation of the AQA was observed, with only AQO appointment and ambient monitoring being significantly applied. The greatest challenge facing municipalities is the securing of financial resources for personnel and equipment. Progress in technical fundamentals is noted, most notably in emission inventories and monitoring capabilities, although communication on air quality issues remains poor, with limited mechanisms in place for inter-governmental or public communication. There is a prevalence of the use of AQMPs as planning tools, as well as general concepts of town planning and zoning. However, in general, planning departments are not involved. A significant proportion of municipalities have a means of assessing progress, whether explicitly or not. A framework for implementing the AQA is produced to guide local government efforts, and provides a summation of the outcomes of the research.