Anél has topped her 2015 achievement of being editor of the first and only comprehensive volume on South African environmental and local government law by completing the second edition of this book.
Are municipalities failing the environment?
eish! asked Prof Anél du Plessis how local government is faring when it comes to adhering to environmental law.
Are they generally meeting these obligations?
Due to urbanisation and many financial, political and human resource-related constraints, local government struggles to comply with all environmental law duties all of the time.
This struggle is exacerbated by the often unpredictable impacts of climate change, legal fragmentation and the frequent turnover of decision-making structures in local government.
South African law has also not been designed for the level of informality (housing, trade, labour) that face municipalities.
In a nutshell, what are the environmental law obligations of local governments?
Municipalities have a range of environmentally relevant duties considering how many basic services, such as waste and water services, depend on natural resources.
Our municipalities are responsible for protecting ecosystem services, preventing and addressing water, air and soil pollution, and safeguarding the biodiversity and cultural heritage of our towns and cities.
What do you think municipalities’ priorities should be in relation to the environment and the law?
It is important for municipalities to understand and take ownership of their environmental law mandate and duties.
Careful spatial planning and innovative use of local governance instruments such as incentives, property tax and local environmental plans may go a long way towards securing environmental sustainability.
It is also pertinent for the public sector and communities to enter into partnerships with municipalities to help protect local water sources, ecosystems, cultural heritage and local infrastructure, and to see to the safety of open spaces and mobility nodes.
More about Anél
As an expert on environmental and local government law, Prof Anél du Plessis has supervised more than 40 postgraduate students and postdoctoral scholars in these areas.
One of her PhD students, Dr Nicolene Steyn, recently graduated as the youngest doctoral student in the NWU Faculty of Law.
Anél is also a South African National Research Foundation-rated researcher, has served as an elected member of the South African Young Academy of Science and coordinated the NWU’s LLM programme in environmental law and governance from 2015 to 2018.
She started her academic journey many years ago at the NWU where she obtained her BA Law degree, LLB, LLM and LLD.
After a one-year internship with what was then the NWU’s Centre for Environmental Management, she became a permanent staff member in 2005.
From left are Prof Marius Pieterse from the WITS Law School, and Prof Anél du Plessis and Ngwako Raboshakga, both from the NWU's Faculty of Law. Marius is also a fellow of the NRF-Nedbank SARChI Chair in Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability at the NWU.
Environmental Law and Local Government focuses on the legal aspects of water and sanitation governance, energy governance, municipal health, waste and air quality management, urban ecology, service delivery and municipal planning.
Environmental sustainability is key
Anél, who holds the NRF-Nedbank SARChI Chair in Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability, says the book grapples with the law and governance arrangements for environmental sustainability in South Africa.
She says it is vital that people never cease asking questions about the causes and impacts of change and environmental degradation in the face of a growing human population, as well as the cyclical successes and failures of government.
The more minds, the better
Various academics and practitioners from across South Africa contributed chapters to the book Environmental Law and Local Government in South Africa, including 13 researchers from different NWU faculties.
Anél says managing a project with almost 40 contributors was a daunting task and took much longer than expected, but she was fortunate to have an amazing team of student researchers.
“I am grateful for every author who was willing to share their expertise and experience, especially since these are not documented anywhere else,” she says.
In the global arena
While updating the book, Anél also co-edited two international books on the globalisation of urban governance and environmental law teaching and pedagogy.
Her latest book project explores the role of cities in the global response to climate change.
Faculty of Law academic and researcher Prof Anél du Plessis is in high spirits – and with good reason.
GROUND-BREAKING ENVIRONMENTAL LAW BOOK
keeps up with the changes
Click on the circle to see Anél's book.
Prof Anél du Plessis was awarded the SARChi Chair in Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability in 2019. When she is not working, Anél loves to travel and explore the outdoors with her husband, Marius, and their 21-month-old twin boys, Christoff and Georg.