An investigation into the factors constraining the resolution of urban environmental problems at local authority level in South Africa

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

The imminent promulgation of the Environment Conservation Act, No. 73 of 1989, which made provision for the devolution of responsibility for environmental matters to the third tier of government authority, was the primary motivation for this research, conducted throughout South Africa between 1988 and 1990. Local authority officials were concerned that they did not have the knowledge, manpower and infrastructural resources to accept this responsibility. This concern was reinforced by the rapid urbanization of predominantly disadvantaged communities for whom little provision had been made. A stratified selection for study purposes of urban areas from the whole of South Africa and all its population groups ensured a reasonable sample of metropolitan regions, regional centres, principle towns and smaller outlying urban areas. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives of government authorities, Non-Government and Community Organizations and practitioners, either implementing or interacting with environmentally related legislation at the local level. With the permission of all participants, the interviews were recorded on audio-cassettes and later transcribed by the interviewers using a word processing programme. Out of these transcriptions, approximately 1000 problem-and-solution groupings were identified and classified. The most widely held perceptions of factors constraining the resolution of urban environmental problems at local authority level were subsequently compared to the provisions of the Environment Conservation Act. It was found that these perceptions of factors requiring attention for the resolution of urban environmental problems are strongly linked to the establishment, maintenance and improvement of environments which contribute to a generally acceptable quality of life. This accords with only one of the four explicit provisions of the Environment Conservation Act. There is a widespread perception that until human needs (Maslow, 1968) are either satisfied or at least addressed, and the whole population incorporated into a more equitable legal framework, the successful implementation of environmental conservation in South Africa will be severely impaired. Furthermore, that the South African ' Government's adherence to the political ideology of separate development constitutes an abuse and exploitation of scarce resources. Recommendations are that the human needs of the whole population of South Africa must be addressed and environmentally destructive legislation repealed in order to truly resolve urban environmental problems, that the participation of the public in matters relating to the effective protection and controlled utilization of the environment be required, that administrative, natural and functional boundaries need to be aligned, and that the structure and responsibilities of bureaucratic hierarchies responsible for environmental management in urban areas need to be set out clearly.

Bibliography: p. 105-107.