The Fulfilment of South Africa’s Environmental Right: Sustainable Development the Fundamental Building Block
AbstractOne of the greatest challenges facing South Africa and the rest of the world is to improve the quality of human life for both the present and future generations through sustainable development. The Constitution provides a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by conflict and democracy. South Africa is embracing, at least in theory, the balancing exercise inherent in the quest for sustainability. The principle of sustainability of the environment encompasses the notion of inter-generational equity, that is, the harm to the environment affects the present as well as future generations, what we can call as the tragedy of the commons. Hence, the public needs to be properly and effectively informed regarding any threats to the environment, whether globally, regionally, nationally or locally. Environmental rights mean access to the unspoiled natural resources that enable survival, including land, shelter, food, water and air. Environments rights may be degraded through air and water pollution, noise, ecosystem deterioration and reduced biological diversity. An emerging category of ‘environmental rights’ requires governments to set environmental standards in order to protect people’s surroundings. An unhealthy environment inevitably impacts on the health of the people living with it. Environmental openness is an inalienable human right. The interests of the moment and the importance of a particular development for a particular entity may, however, still dictate the interpretation or lack of interpretation of the balancing of interests. Sustainability is embedded in governance. An attempt to conceal any information about harmful impact on people and the environment is a crime against humanity.
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