Factors preventing the successful implementation of the polluter pays principle : a case study of the Bayne's Spruit.
Despite the pollution control provisions provided in national and local legislation that explicitly or implicitly give effect to the polluter pays principle (PPP), certain rivers continue to suffer from persistent industrial pollution. This research focuses on one such river, the Bayne's Spruit, as a case study. The Bayne's Spruit is a small river that is located within an urban catchment, and which has been subjected to wet industrial pollution for over a decade. Much of this pollution is associated with the Pietermaritzburg edible oil industry. This pollution impacts negatively on a downstream community that uses the river for irrigation of subsistence crops, for recreation and for subsistence fish harvesting. The pollution has also severely degraded the riverine ecosystem. This research commenced with a literature review of the PPP in its international, national and local context. It was noted that the current legislative framework for implementation of the PPP with regard to pollution of rivers in South Africa comprises primarily of the National Water Act 36 of 1998 (NWA), the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998, and the Pietermaritzburg-Msunduzi industrial effluent bylaws of November 1998. The case study was approached using a largely qualitative methodology, although quantitative data was also relied upon where feasible. The historical context of the case study was provided by conducting a review of newspaper reports, a review of. government inspection records, and a review of water quality data (including biomonitoring and chemical data). The current status of the Bayne's Spruit was then explored by conducting in-depth historical interviews with community members, and by conducting direct observation of the environmental status of the Bayne's Spruit. This data was supplemented by an analysis of the test results of sampled industrial effluent, and by information obtained from representatives of two edible oil companies. In-depth, purposively selected interviews were conducted with various role players. (local government, regional government and industry) to identify what factors are preventing the successful implementation of the PPP in the case study area. Factors identified include a lack of environmental ethic within the edible oil industry, with some of these companies free riding on the Bayne's Spruit to maximize their profits. At a local level, factors preventing implementation of the PPP include deficiencies in the local industrial effluent bylaws, failures to administer and implement provisions contained in the bylaws, capacity restrictions and institutional paralysis. National legislation is not being successfully implemented because the government agency empowered under the NWA is deferring primary responsibility for dealing with pollution to the local authority. Factors also include difficulties associated with monitoring of rivers, including lack of capacity to engage in monitoring, and confusion over the functions of the various spheres of government. Finally, enforcement complexities are a major factor preventing successful implementation of the PPP. These problems relate to inadequate penalties, enforcement arrangements, capacity problems, separation of authority to operate the municipal sewer works and to enforce the industrial effluent bylaws, difficulties in identifying the offending polluter (causation), problems with access to company premises, the open access character of the storm water drainage system, previous failed prosecutions and reliance on the criminal justice system.
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