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Home 5 Uncategorised 5 Environmental Law 7 – Setting up a chicken abattoir or other agri-industrial enterprise

What requirements are there in respect of setting up a chicken abattoir or other agri-industrial enterprise?
What is the process?
What Government departments need to be contacted?

Establishing an agri-industrial business requires authorization from a number of Government Departments. As with most applications one requires both planning and environmental authorisation, which are two separate processes.

Firstly, one needs to lodge a development application with the Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs. There are limitations on what a person can do on any specific property and if one wishes to do a non-preferred activity one has to ask for special consent or a rezoning to do so. Municipalities have zoning regulations that specify what one may and may not do on a property. For example, one may not ordinarily build more than one house on a residential plot. Likewise one may not build ad hoc commercial and industrial facilities on residential or agricultural properties. Planning permission is required. This is done to regulate development and encourage appropriate development.

Secondly, depending on the nature of the activity, one may need to obtain environmental authorisation from the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs: Environmental Management. This is done to ensure that any potentially polluting activity is evaluated in terms of sustainability and environmental impact. For example, a chicken abattoir produces contaminated wastewater and animal by-products which can lead to pollution of groundwater resources and dangers to animals. Planning permission will only be granted if one has complied with the environmental regulations.

The Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs: Veterinary Public Health also needs to be consulted. The processing of animal products is a strictly controlled activity due to its potential negative social impacts. Contamination of foodstuffs can cause illness and even death, and a single truckload of contaminated material can affect hundreds of people over a wide distribution. Consequently, abattoir hygiene is strictly regulated and monitored to ensure that the impacts are not realized. The Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs: Veterinary Public Health therefore must approve the plans from a hygiene point of view and issue a Certificate of Registration for the abattoir before operations can commence. The Department of Health, Chief Environmental Health Inspector, must therefore also sign off on the application.

Abattoirs generally require a large amount of water, depending on the slaughter throughput. Large-scale abattoirs will generally use water in excess of the General Authorisation provided by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and therefore a Water Use Licence may be required. In addition to the licence requirements, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry is also mandated to protect our water resources and will need to approve wastewater disposal.

It is therefore a rigorous process and one that can take a very long time if it is not managed properly. Most of the above-described processes can run concurrently and homework done at the start will save time in the long term. In the next issue we will look at the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004).

The author will not be held responsible for misinterpretation of the law, and strongly recommends that readers consult their local DAEA branch for clarification.

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