Waste Khoro 2019: Asbestos and Land Remediation Summit
The Constitution of South Africa provides in section 24 of the Bill of Rights that everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being, to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that — prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development. While it is acknowledged that the Department has a constitutional responsibility to fulfil, to protect and enforce its obligation relating to the environment as required by Constitution, the anthropogenic activities from industrialization, mining, agrochemical, illegal dumping, poor farming practices, lack of sufficient waste infrastructure, lack of provision of sufficient waste services, monopolies and oligopolies in waste sector, policy approaches to address inequalities in the waste sector, minimal transformation in the waste sector, lack of policy implementation to support small medium and micro-enterprises, insufficient asbestos and chemical initiatives; insufficient awareness on land remediation, asbestos, chemicals and waste contribute to environmental degradation and historic asbestos mines still threaten government’s responsibility to give effect to the protection of these rights.
In the quest to give effect to the right that is not detrimental to human beings, the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998) (NEMA) was promulgated and it contains the principles that inform all the Specific Environmental Management Acts (SEMAs), hence the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (NEMWA) was also promulgated to ensure that all environmental media are being protected in a sustainable manner for the future generations to accrue the same environmental benefits that are being accrued by the current generation.
NEM:WA has seen the introduction of the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) which focus on promoting recycling and reuse of waste as a secondary resource, thereby ensuring that waste streams are being diverted from landfill sites. This strategy has ensured that sustainable resource use is being realized in practical terms because, it has brought an opportunity to minimize the use of natural resources by promoting reuse and recycling of waste. In essence the strategy has resulted in the creation of economic value from waste which has the potential to create jobs for the previously disadvantaged people. Should programs geared towards the creation of small medium and micro-enterprises, the sector could contribute to the alleviation of poverty while preventing pollution and degradation of the environment.
While acknowledging the progress that has been made in terms of the management of waste in the country, there is still littering, poor waste management practices, little research in the field of waste management, inequitable funding practices, lack of sufficient waste infrastructure, poor governance, fragmented approach in waste management, lack of sufficient support from the waste industry, lack of integration in waste management, non-compliance with regards to waste management policies, legislations and regulations, lack of active citizenship on environmental aspects and other related problems. All these challenges threatens the rights to the protection of the environment that is not detrimental to humans and their wellbeing that is enshrined in the Constitution.
Part 8 of the NEM: WA, which, relates to Contaminated Land came into effect on 2nd of May 2014. Part 8 of NEM: WA provides a framework for the management of contaminated land in the country which provides detailed approaches, tools and procedures for the management and remediation of contaminated land in the country and it is founded on the polluter pay principle, duty of care, sustainability and risk based approaches and it adheres to the Source-Pathway-Receptors Model in the management of contaminated land.
The management and requirements for contaminants is constantly changing due to industrial development and production of new chemicals that find their way to the environment. There are various contaminants of concern nationally which have a detrimental effects on human health and the environment such as petroleum hydrocarbons, asbestos, heavy metals, pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, radionuclides and emerging pollutants such as Nano compounds and endocrine disrupters. Concerns about land contamination is real and it is incumbent on government and other role players to come up with accelerated action and collaboration to address and sustainably manage land and groundwater contamination that threatens the security of the environment.
Remediation of contaminated land is essential and new technologies are being developed and tested to effect remediation. Therefore, the Waste Khoro and Summit will provide a national exchange platform in which best possible management practices, techniques, approaches, models, research, challenges and lessons learnt will be discussed on different areas of land remediation to further strengthen land remediation governance in the country. The remediation of contaminated land improves soil quality that is necessary for the ploughing of crops; the protection of human health & safety from harmful exposure to chemicals in the environment; improve water quality and security; food safety and security; sustainability of the ecosystem and environment.
Through Part 8 of the NEM: WA, the Department has declared 450 sites as Remediation Sites while 440 sites have being declared as Investigation Sites to determine the presence and extent of migration of contaminants and may ultimately be declared Remediation Sites as well. The Department has also finalized a National Contaminated Land Register which provides information about areas in the country that are being remediated. Subsequent to remediation, all these areas will be available for residential, industrial, agricultural uses and also other related applications.
The Department has also embarked on implementation of a number of asbestos related projects that involve building of schools and school sport grounds, tarring of roads, and awareness campaigns for the communities in areas affected by asbestos in the country. Raw asbestos is naturally occurring, but has been exposed by mining activities. Asbestos has been mined in Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Limpopo and North West Provinces. The mining and usage of asbestos containing materials in the country is well documented and researched. The main risk that is posed by asbestos to human health is through the inhalation of asbestos fibres. It should also be noted that secondary asbestos contamination was caused by the migration of Asbestos from primary mining activities to human settlements by wind.
The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has established various structures to deal with the Secondary asbestos contamination. Amongst them is the Intergovernmental Land Remediation Committee on Asbestos, which is tasked with the implementation of the Cabinet approved Secondary Asbestos Remediation Plan (SARP). The implementation of the SARP has been ongoing since 2016 and this Khoro and Summit will provide an opportunity for reflection on the challenges and learnings that were experienced during the implementation of these projects
In the past, the Waste Khoro which is a mandatory forum of Waste Management Officers (WMOs) from the three tiers of government used to be held annually. The Asbestos and Land Remediation Summits used to be held as separate conferences. However, this year, the Department resolved that all the Waste related conferences must be combined together going forward under the Good Green Deeds Initiative. This year, it was decided that, Good Green Deeds, Waste Khoro, Asbestos and Sustainable Land Remediation Summits will be held under the name, Waste Khoro 2019: Asbestos and land Remediation Summit. This implies that four conferences have been combined in one. The conference theme: is “Good Green Deeds towards a Recycling Economy and Sustainable Land Remediation”.
Waste management hierarchy:
The Waste Management Officers (WMO) Khoro (conference in the Vhenda language) is an annual conference of all government institutions dealing with waste. The aim of this conference is to provide a platform for WMOs in the three spheres of government to share information and exchange thoughts in a mutually beneficial manner. It further aims to strengthen capacity and streamline the institutional framework across government entities to enhance effective waste management.
The 2019 Khoro and the Summit is targeting WMOs from National, Provincial and Local Government, Industry and Business that are active in waste management and land remediation consultants, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Waste Officers, National and Provincial Government Officials, Municipalities, National Asbestos contractors, Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs (COGTA), International specialists/experts in the field of waste, asbestos, chemicals and land remediation, legal fraternity, National, Provincial and Municipality entities, relevant students and lectures from all the higher education institutions, commercial research institutions, members of the public, members of executive council inform the Northern Cape Provincial Government, Network For Industrially Contaminated Land In Africa (NICOLA) and Waste Pickers associations.
The evolution of national legislation, policy, agreements and research in waste management led to the promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act No.59 of 2008). The passing of this Act by parliament has reformed the law regulating waste management and also offers direction for the coordination of all waste management efforts to protect the environment and human health by providing reasonable measures for the prevention of pollution and ecological degradation and for securing ecologically sustainable development.
In addition to other multiple provisions; the Waste Act in section 10; provides for the designation of Waste Management Officers (WMOs) in the three spheres of the government whose main task is the coordination of waste management efforts between the three spheres of government, the private sector and the general public.
The main objectives of the Khoro are
- to set a platform for the effective implementation of the Waste Act by the three spheres of government;
- to discuss challenges and lessons learnt in the implementation of the Waste Act;
- to exchange information on best practice in waste management service delivery;
- to discuss and agree on the dimension shift in promoting the waste management hierarchy approach;
- to re-emphasise the role of government authorities when it comes to authorisation of waste activities and ensure consistency where applicable;
- to create and raise awareness on waste management; and
- to put strategies in place which will put waste at the top of government service delivery agenda.
Follow the link below for more background information on the previous conferences.