The lack of compliance in medical waste disposal is one of the Green Scorpions biggest problem headaches, and the Gauteng Province is the Department of Environmental Affairs worst problem child.
This was revealed on Wednesday during a release of the National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report for 2014/15.
The report shows a lack of capacity is the DEA’s biggest hindrance.
A total of 2889 facilities were inspected in 2014/15 which showed a small increase over the 2849 inspected in 2013/14.
“Health care risk waste took the lion’s share for the most problematic sector and approximately one-third of all the waste related matters were addressed through enforcement action,” the report stated. It went on to say, “Gauteng province bears the brunt of waste management issues, with more cases than the sum of the remaining eight provinces”.
Health care risk waste is all medical waste such as syringes, bandages, nappies, needles, foetuses, and anatomical waste.
“We discovered most of the operators in the field took chances and decided to do things illegally,” said the DEA’s Chief Director of Regulatory Services Sonnyboy Bapela.
“The companies are mostly private companies, one of which we have been dealing with since 2009.”
DEA Chief Director of Enforcement Frances Craigie said the criminal prosecution of the company in question would take place at the beginning of 2016.
“The difficulty with the healthcare waste industry is that it is all about money. What happens is that some of the service providers and the people with facilities win too many tenders and contracts from private and government hospitals and they can’t cater for the amount of waste which needs to be dealt with,” Craigie said.
A case in point was a company called Solid Waste which recently went insolvent, said Craigie, explaining the company simply tried to do too much with not enough facilities despite being paid a lot of money.
Bapela said a problem the Green Scorpions were facing is they were battling to get cases into court as companies with very deep pockets were able to delay proceedings for years.
However, with new draft legislation in the pipeline, this may come to an end soon.
Unfortunately the number of arrests and cars handed to the National Prosecuting Authority have dropped, while the number of cases the NPA has declined to prosecute have increased.
On the plus side, the NPA reported an increase in the number of environmental crimes finalised from 165 to 265 over the past financial year. The NPA’s strike rate also increased from 87.3% to 94.7%. The prioritised focus areas include illegal hunting, dealing and possession of rhino and rhino horns, ivory, abalone, cycads and waste and pollution.
Another big problem for the DEA was a lack of capacity, although the report reflected a steady growth since 2012/13 from 1055 to 1300 grade 5 Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI) – the official nomenclature for the Green Scorpions – in 2014/15.
These top EMIs are appointed as “field rangers” to execute compliance and enforcement duties within various national and provincial protected areas.
The problem is, more than half of them are literally in the field involved with anti-poaching efforts which leaves South African National Parks with the greatest slice of the pie at 39% as rhino and elephant poaching reaches new heights.
This is being addressed in part by 480 SANParks field rangers from Kruger National Park who began training in June as grade 5 EMI’s.
There was also a course for prosecutors in environmental crime which saw1 2 prosecutors from Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo and North West receive training in the relevant environmental legislation.
The full National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report can be read here: