green scorpions set to sting

Submitted by turbosprout on Tue, 2007-05-22 13:20

Will we ever tire of this headline or it's various permutations? Scorpions allowed to sting. Scorpions are ready to sting. Scorpions may sting. Scorpions sting!

Just who are these green caped environmental crusaders who crack down, swoop, strike and, finally, sting? They've been billed as the "lean, mean, green machine", the "gutsy dirt busters" and they regularly make news headlines especially after a dramatic bust, like last week when they "seized 13 snakes".

Dax asked in a recent post where James Bond is to save us from the evil supervillians intent on putting a strangle hold on our food supply. I'm not so sure Agent Bond can help us here but maybe the Green Scorpions will be up for the job.

So who are the Green Scorpions really? Do they carry any cool gadgets or dazzling weapons, and what super-powers do they have?

The so-called Green Scorpions came about in 2005 when an amendment to the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) was passed providing for environmental inspectors to be appointed by National and Provincial Government. Where previously there were inspectors working in an isolated manner for different departments like air quality, marine conservation, pollution, waste etc. there is now a co-ordinated national Environmental Management Inspector (EMI) network that shares intelligence, experience, training and procedures.

They comprise inspectors from within the... national Department of Environment and Tourism (DEAT), members from each of the nine provinces and rangers and enforcers from SA National Parks (SANParks).

The EMI's main goal is to enforce South Africa's various environmental laws and so they've been granted special powers of inspection and investigation. They can enter premises, confiscate evidence, question witnesses, copy documentation, remove articles, substances and waste, take photo's and samples, set up roadblocks, search vehicles, premises, containers, ships, aircraft and pack animals and make arrests.

They also work together with other agencies such as the police (Organised Crime and Commercial Crime) and the NPA's Scorpions.

There are about 800 EMI's nationwide, the largest number of environmental inspectors South Africa has ever had, with almost another hundred awaiting their designation and fifty in training.

So far the Green Scorpions' actions have led to 130 people being convicted of environmental crimes and R1.5 million in admission-of-guilt fines have been paid. The highest penalty imposed as a result their actions was 10 years’ imprisonment and a R675 000 fine!

Previous head of the Green Scorpions, Peter Lukey (now chief of Air Quality Management and Climate Change at DEAT), conceded in 2005 that the popular term Green Scorpions might be a misnomer when it came to the inspectors, who were all decked out in black anoraks - with the letters EMI emblazoned across the back - and black peaked caps.

"We look like a cross between the Men In Black and the FBI," he joked.

Whether attired in Green or Black, able to dodge bullets, charm snakes or help little old ladies across the street - how ever you like to take your superheros - from where I'm sitting it seems like the Green Scorpions are putting in heroic effort to make the environmental busts the country desperately needs.

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