'Law is quite clear that Shell now needs environmental authorisation under Act'
A legal challenge to stop Shell from starting its planned seismic survey off the Wild Coast began in the Makhanda High Court on Wednesday.
Judgment is set to be handed down on Friday morning.
The bid was launched by four environmental and human rights organisations - Border Deep Sea Angling Association, Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa.
The groups say the five-month seismic and oil gas exploration project would be a threat to marine life.
_Oceans Not Oil _started a petition against Shell's plans - more than 375,000 people have signed so far.
The vessel will... drag up to 48 air guns methodically through 6,011km² of ocean surface, firing extremely loud shock wave emissions that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed.Oceans Not Oil Coalition
The plaintiffs are represented by specialist environmental law firm Cullinan and Associates.
Bruce Whitfield interviews Cormac Cullinan, a Director at the firm.
He notes that the law has changed since the permit was first granted to Shell.
What brought it to people's attention was this announcement on 29 October that they were going to start the seismic surveys from today. Everybody was caught by surprise...Cormac Cullinan, Director - Cullinan and Associates
[Also] the Wild Coast has a special place in many people's hearts and the idea that this particularly pristine area is going to be explored for oil and gas, particularly when we know we should be getting off that bandwagon, has really offended a lot of South Africans.Cormac Cullinan, Director - Cullinan and Associates
Cullinan reports that Wednesday was just "an initial skirmish" about whether there is sufficiently irreparable harm to have the survey stopped for December.
The argument still to come concerns the National Environmental Management Act, Nema.
We're saying that the law has changed and now that they need not just exploration rights and environmental management programme, they also need an environmental authorisation under Nema.Cormac Cullinan, Director - Cullinan and Associates
Why that's particularly important is because if you do an environmental impact assessment under Nema for a coastal activity, you have to look at the provisions of the Integrated Coastal Management [ICM] Act... They say that offshore waters are coastal public property, owned by the people of South Africa and not the state...Cormac Cullinan, Director - Cullinan and Associates
... and they must be managed in the interests of the whole community which is basically not just humans who are dependent on the coastal environment but all living creatures dependent on it.Cormac Cullinan, Director - Cullinan and Associates
Cullinan describes the state as the public trustees, who must look after the area in the interests of all.
For more detail, listen to the audio clip below:
This article first appeared on CapeTalk : 'Law is quite clear that Shell now needs environmental authorisation under Act'
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