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Fuel Retailers Association of Southern Africa v Director-General Environmental Management, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga Province and Others [2007] ZACC 13

Category: Case Law
Date: 7 June 2007
Sub Category:Case Law
Location:Republic of South Africa
Legal Reference: [2007] ZACC 13; Case CCT 67/06
URL: http://www.constitutionalcourt.org.za/Archimages/11054.PDF
Summary Information:
Fuel Retailers Association of Southern Africa v Director General Environmental Management, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga Province & Others [2007] ZACC 13

Between: Fuel Retailers Association of Southern Africa (Applicants) and Director-General Environmental Management, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga Province and Others (Respondents)

Judges: Moseneke DCJ, Madala J, Mokgoro J, Navsa AJ, Nkabinde J, Ngcobo J, O'Regan J, Sachs J, Skweyiya J and van der Westhuizen J.

Where made: Constitutional Court, Johannesburg, South Africa

Held: That detrimental social and economic impact must be considered when assessing a proposed development's environmental impact.

This case was brought to the Constitutional Court by the Fuel Retailers Association of Southern Africa who challenged the construction of a petrol station in Mpumalanga, on grounds including environmental. The court considered the role that detrimental social and economic impacts should play when assessing the environmental impacts of proposed developments. It did this because the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 ('NEMA')) under which the decision was made, states that one of the principles which must guide environmental authorities is 'to consider the social, economic and environmental impact of a proposed activity including its 'disadvantages and benefits'.' (s 2(4)(i)).
Detailed Information:
The case dealt with the decision to grant a permit to build a new petrol station, which had the potential to cause contamination of ground water. However, the main point of contention between the parties was on the question of social and economic impact; the applicants argued that the social and economic harm that would result from a new petrol station, given that there were already six petrol stations within a five kilometre radius, when considered in conjunction of the environmental impact of the development, meant the construction should not go ahead.

The court found that the NEMA contained the explicit proviso that 'unlimited development is detrimental to the environment and the destruction of the environment is detrimental to development' [para 44]. Given this, it canvassed national and international ideas of sustainable development, find that it encompassed concepts including sustainable utilisation of natural resources and inter-generational equity. It also found that the NEMA required 'people and their needs to be placed at the forefront of environmental management - batho pele'. Batho pele is the Sesotho phrase for 'people first'.

In particular, the court stated that:

'The continued existence of development is essential to the needs of the population, whose needs a development must serve. This can be achieved if a development is sustainable. The collapse of a development may have an adverse impact on socio-economic interests such as the loss of employment. The very idea of sustainability implies continuity. It reflects a concern for social and developmental equity between generations, a concern that must logically be extended to equity within each generation.' [para 75]

The court found that this meant that authorities should not only consider the impact on the environment when assessing applications of this sort, but must also consider the effect on surrounding similar businesses. In the case of the latter, the court stated that a new petrol station would negatively impact on those petrol stations in proximity to it, and found that the environmental authorities should have considered this as a factor.

Related Entries

Organisation
  • Fuel Retailers Association of Southern Africa
  • Legislation
  • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996
  • People
  • Director-General Environmental Management, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment

  • References

    Case Law
    Constitutional Court of South Africa (7 June 2007) Fuel Retailers Association of Southern Africa v Director-General Environmental Management, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga Province and Others [2007] ZACC 13

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