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The right to a non-harmful environment, and to have that environment protected, recognises that a person's human rights extend to all areas of their surrounding life. It recognises that a person's mental health is closely connected to their physical health. It includes a duty on the state to prevent pollution and ecological degradation, and also to actively promote conservation.

Environmental legislation does exist in South Africa, although it is not always adequately enforced. Some laws that pertain to the protection of the environment include the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act of 1965, the National Environmental Management Amendment Act of 2008 (NEMA), and certain sections of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 (MPRDA).

Environmental rights are often used in tandem with other rights, such as the right of access to information and the right to administrative justice.



Everyone has the right ­to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being

and 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.
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