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Van Schalkwyk introduces new Bill to preserve SA's coastline - 8 May 2008

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk on Thursday introduced the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Bill in the National Assembly.

The ICM Bill will establish a coastal protection zone inland of the high-water mark within which certain activities will be prohibited, and additional development controls will be applied - such as stricter environmental-impact assessments.

This would give government the power to prevent development too close to the sea by establishing ‘set-back lines'. These measures were important not only to preserve the beauty of coastal landscapes, but also to respond to threats posed by, for example, rising sea-levels associated with climate change or dynamic coastal processes.

The new Bill would replace the existing 1935 Seashore Act, as well as the 1980 Control of Dumping at Sea Act and introduced, for the first time, a comprehensive national system for planning and managing South Africa's unique coastal areas.

"This Bill declares the seashore, coastal waters (including estuaries) and South Africa's territorial seas, to be coastal public property. The State therefore acts as the trustee of coastal public property," Van Schalkwyk said.

The purpose of the Bill was to provide a legal and administrative framework that will promote cooperative, coordinated and integrated coastal development; preserve, protect and enhance the status of the coastal environment as a heritage that belongs to all; ensure coastal resources are managed in the interest of the whole community; ensure there is equitable access to the opportunities and benefits derived from the coast; and to give effect to certain of South Africa‘s international legal obligations.

The ICM Bill also makes provision for coastal waters discharge permits and dumping permits and stipulates that all existing effluent discharges into the sea and estuaries should be critically reviewed.

"There have been a number of reports in the media about sewage spills and sub-standard effluent from fish factories being discharged into harbours and the coastal zone - with devastating effects. Excellent coastal water quality is not only essential to our burgeoning tourism sector but also to ensure the maintenance and expansion of the aquaculture industry," Van Schalkwyk added.

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