Ideally, recognition that the environment is important to human sustenance would lead to the prioritisation of its protection. In such a scenario, persons would voluntarily manage, conserve, protect, and improve the environment even in the absence of prevailing penalties for failing to do so. However, the reality is that sole reliance on personal commitments to effect environmental management proves insufficient for achieving an acceptable level of compliance with environmental best practices. In view of this, the Environmental Protection Act, Cap 20:05 (“EP Act”), and its Regulations identify various types of environmentally- harmful activities, impose specific conditions or standards for those activities, prohibit the breach of those conditions or standards, and penalise their breach. Further, at Section 3(1), the EP Act establishes the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), which is principally concerned with enforcing the provisions of the Act.

Top ten enforcement methods
In order to ensure that preventative and remedial actions are taken to protect the environment, officers of the EPA utilise a range of enforcement options, which include the following:

1. Formal warnings
Often, where it appears that a person is in breach of a provision of the EP Act, officers of the EPA firstly strive to encourage compliance by informing the person of the Agency’s stance on the offending activity, the threat involved, the steps that can be taken to remedy the situation, and the time-frame within which corrective actions ought to be taken.

2. Prohibition Notices
Where oral cautions and formal warnings fail, and it appears that a person is conducting activities which are injurious to human health and the environment, the officers of the EPA may proceed to issue a Prohibition Notice in accordance with Section 27 of the EP Act. Such notices order the immediate cessation of the offending activity.
Persons who fail to adhere to Prohibition Notices become liable to a fine, which may exceed three hundred thousand dollars, and to imprisonment for up to one year.

3. Enforcement Notices
Where an officer of the EPA observes that a person is contravening, or is likely to contravene, a condition of an Environmental Permit, that officer may issue an Enforcement Notice, in accordance with Section 26 of the EP Act. If the person in breach of an Environmental Permit fails to adhere to an Enforcement Notice, an officer of the EPA may proceed to cancel or suspend the Environmental Permit issued to that person.

4. Cessation Orders
Where any project is being carried on, or has been started, without an environmental permit, as required by the EP Act, the EP Agency is required to immediately serve an order, in accordance with Section 15(2) of the EP Act, directing the person responsible to immediately stop the project.

5. Fixed penalties
Where an officer of the EPA has reason to believe that a person has committed an offence, the officer may give that person a notice, pursuant to Section 46 of the EP Act, offering them the opportunity to discharge any liability to conviction for that offence by payment to the EPA of two-thirds of the minimum prescribed penalty within twenty-eight days of the date of the notice.

6. Clean-up Orders
Where an officer of the EPA considers any premises – when viewed from a public road, street or highway – to be unsightly or seriously detrimental to the amenities of the neighbourhood by reason of litter, that officer may proceed to issue a clean-up order, pursuant to Regulation 24 of the Environmental Protection (Litter Enforcement) Regulations 2013, requiring the person in control of the premises to remedy its condition.

7. Litter-removal Orders
Where an officer of the EPA finds a person depositing litter in a public place without reasonable excuse, that officer may proceed to issue a litter removal order, pursuant to Regulation 22(3) of Environmental Protection (Litter Enforcement) Regulations 2013, requiring the person to remedy the condition caused by their action.

8. Detention of property
Section 35(2)(f) and (g) of the EP Act provides that officers of the EPA may take any article or substance found in or on premises which they consider to have caused, or to be likely to cause, pollution of the environment, and dismantle it, subject it to processing or testing, or detain it for the purpose of ensuring that the articles or substances are available for use as evidence in any proceedings for an offence under the EP Act.

9. Injunction
Where a person has done, is about to do, or is likely to commit, any act or thing constituting or directing the commission of an offence under the EP Act, an officer of the EPA may, in accordance with Section 47(1) of the EP Act, proceed to make an application to the High Court, requesting that the Court make an order which requires the person to either refrain from doing a particular thing, or to do a particular thing which would prevent the commission of an offence.

10. Prosecution
Although the EPA makes every effort to encourage voluntary compliance with the EP Act, in certain instances, it becomes necessary to prosecute offences under the Act. For instance, where breaches have significant environmental consequences, where there is an apparent disregard for the law, or where the offender has been found guilty of breaches on previous occasions, officers of the EPA may proceed to initiate legal proceedings against apparent offenders, in accordance with Section 32(1) of the EP Act.

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