Beyond Litigation: The Need for Creativity in Working to Realise Environmental Rights


Lisa Chamberlain
Deputy Director, Centre For Applied Legal Studies,
University of The Witwatersrand,
Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, South Africa


Environmental harm is one of the biggest challenges facing communities living in poverty across the world.  Unfortunately, in developing strategies to combat environmental harm, the lawyers that support such communities often tend to focus purely on litigation.  Yet there are many reasons why litigation is not ideally suited to the environmental context.  These reasons include the need for speed in order to avert irreversible harm quickly, the difficulty in quantifying and proving environmental harm using conventional legal tests, the very technical subject matter with which judges are often unfamiliar and the challenge of securing scientific experts.  Fortunately litigation is not the only option, and a wealth of alternative strategies to realise environmental rights exist.  Using the campaign to protect the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site in South Africa as a case study, this article will examine three such alternatives: namely the linkages between advocacy campaigns and company share price, community learning exchanges and an interesting model for collaboratively monitoring compliance by mining companies.


Community learning exchange, compliance-monitoring, environmental justice, interdict, mining, public interest litigation, share price.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893