A consideration of the squatter issue in relation to the natural environment.
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Environmental conservation is the achievement of the highest quality of living for mankind by the rational utilization of the environment. It advocates practices that will perpetuate the resources of the Earth on which man depends or in whose continued existence man takes an interest, and is opposed to the view that resources may always be used in the short run for personal profit or for the immediate benefit of living generations. In addition to the numerous obstacles to environmental conservation, m South Africa conservation has recently also become threatened by the establishment of squatter settlements throughout the country. This study is an attempt to give a general picture of how the squatter issue has been dealt with in South Africa, both legislatively and judicially; and also to examine the implications of these legislative and judicial decisions for environmental conservation. Instances of squatting can be attributed to rapid urbanisation, population growth and housing shortages. Unfortunately the quest for shelter forces people to live in squalor and poverty and these living conditions create many negative environmental impacts. The Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act 52 of 1951 1s the most comprehensive piece of legislation aimed at controlling squatting. However from the cases ansmg out of the provisions of this Act it is clear that environmental protection is not an aim of the Act; instead the Act reflects the State's policies of apartheid, influx control and controlled urbanisation. Recently the Less Formal Townships Establishment Act 113 of 1991 was enacted, in order to prevent squatting, by affording people the opportunity to own homes in less formal settlements. While this Act goes a long way in addressing housing needs it does not do so with due consideration for environmental protection. The single case on this Act also does not concern itself with environmental protection or conservation. This study concludes that, for the moment at least, environmental conservation is not a priority in South Africa. The focus at present is on securing the right to shelter for all South Africans. However, our Constitutional Bill of Rights recognises the right to shelter as well as the right to a healthy environment and the submission of this study is that both these rights should be given equal status.