An overview of the legal instruments to conserve biodiversity in South Africa with particular reference to the establishment and expansion of protected areas
Blackmore, Andrew Craig.
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In this investigation, a review is undertaken of the newly promulgated and existent legislation pertaining to the conservation of biodiversity, and the establishment of protected areas as the primary means to protect representative samples thereof. This review develops understanding of the various types of protected areas which may be used, in a broad sense, to conserve the country's biodiversity, with special reference being made to the recently promulgated Protected Areas Act. In undertaking this, a detailed discussion of biodiversity, trusteeship and the concept of systematic planning and irreplaceability is generated. Cursory comment and discussion in a socio-political context, in particular regarding land reform, as well as the various international obligations and commitments the country has undertaken, is made. Despite South Africa being the third most biologically diverse country globally, it is concluded that the conservation of its biodiversity has had a troubled and undirected history. The establishment of protected areas, as a result, has been ad hoc and potentially ineffective at a national scale. The source of this observation is linked directly to the absence of a structured and co-ordinated framework that supports the fulfilment of the country's international commitments to conserve biodiversity. The promulgation of the Biodiversity Act and subsequently the Protected Areas Act, has brought into playa significant step forward in developing this co-ordinated framework. The Act clarifies and brings effect to the State's trusteeship as well as providing a platform for the participation of a wider range of role players, especially previously disadvantaged and land dispossessed communities, in conservation and protection of biodiversity. This participation includes conserving biodiversity for economic, social, and cultural reasons. The absence of meaningful incentives for private and communal landowners to voluntarily conserve biodiversity, and the significance ofthis, is also discussed. Finally a consideration is given of the secondary aim of this legislation, to simplify the statutes concerning the conservation of biodiversity and particularly those pertaining to protected area establishment. This simplification is only partially achieved as a number of protected areas are still not at all or partially regulated by the Protected Areas Act. This may be a source of confusion and uncertainty.