The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has recently made environmental licenses automatically available to the public. Unlike the previous position, licenses will now become available without having to submit a request in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). This announcement from the DEA came after the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) pushed to have environmental licences and compliance data, including the PAIA reports, made accessible online to the public.
Environmental licenses and permits set out the compliance requirements when conducting a potentially environmentally harmful activity. The CER emphasized the difficulty in accessing this information and argued that the public has a right to know how to comply with the license requirements, especially since non-compliance may result in the suspension or withdrawal of licenses, and in some cases, lead to a criminal offence.
The permits that the DEA has now published include various environmental authorisations, waste management licences, atmospheric emission licences, Biodiversity Act permits and general permits for boat-based whale watching and shark cage diving.
The CER has commended the DEA “for its commitment to open governance and realisation of the Constitutional rights to access to information, just administrative action and environmental rights”.
The notice published by the DEA provides that members of the public may email Phumzile Sabeka at PSabeka@environment.gov.za, for copies of these licences.