South African Land Reclamation Plans on the Table

Bomo Edith Edna Molewa, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa, has introduced a white paper which will allow government and private entities to begin the process of reclaiming land from the ocean for development.

“The regulations seek to provide an administrative framework to implement sections 7B and 7C of the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, 2008 (Act No. 24 of 2008) relating to the submission, processing and consideration of applications for approval to reclaim land from coastal waters,” the Department of Environmental Affairs stated in its announcement.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Environmental Affairs identified the reclamation of land from the sea, which is the process of creating new land from the sea, thus adding to the territory of South Africa, as a significant activity that was open to potential abuse.

Therefore, requiring dedicated provisions within the amended ICM Act as well as regulations to elaborate on the process laid out in those provisions and to ensure that reclaimed land is in the national interest of South Africans.

Some of the problems identified include; the potential abuse by private consortia by creating privatized space that is closed off to the public and the mixed use of reclaimed land and re-sale of portions of land that make it difficult to track and monitor, according to the notice.

Furthermore, the old process in the principal Act that required the use of multiple pieces of legislation, as well as, previously reclaimed land being disposed of as state land without a market-related fee structure, resulting in reclaimed land being sold off for extremely cheap prices.

The adoption of the new regulations will ensure that all potential reclamation on the South African coast will be subject to an appropriate and effective authorization process. This will be in the national interest, beneficial to the public and state, whilst in line with sustainable development principles, which cannot be sold or have changes made in terms of usage that deviates from its primary purpose, the department said.

These regulations, called the Reclamation of Land from Coastal Waters Regulations 2017, are currently open for public comment.