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Environment Budget Vote 2009/10 - Delivered by Minister BP Sonjica
National Assembly, Parliament
18 June 2009

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges For Africa Travel and Info Directory as the source of this article: http://forafrica.co.za/?p=3817


Allow me, honourable speaker to acknowledge that over 15 years in government, the African National Congress has made progress in developing policies and strategies for the environment portfolio. These policies informed the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land and the repository of the values of the nation. They were further extended to the white paper which is the policy of government. All of these constitute the legal and political mandate for the Department and the context within which we will pursue our efforts to contribute to a better life. Our challenge is to further integrate climate change considerations with sustainable development strategies.

What is key about our mandate is the balance between environmental protection and sustainable development as clearly stated out in Section 24 of the Constitution. Evidently, for us to succeed we need to join hands with all South Africans in the attainment of a common vision that will be in support of the creation of a healthy nation.

Rural development:

The department will support rural development objectives by ensuring that the integrity of ecosystems on which rural economies are based is protected. In his State of the Nation Address, President Zuma said that Sustainable Resource Management and Use is one of the strategic priorities of government. It is in this context that the department will continue to roll out community based natural resource management programmes. These will focus on enterprise development and sharing with local communities the benefits from indigenous biological resources. The policy and legislative tools provided by the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act will therefore be used to this effect and we will make sure that the processes make sense to the affected communities and their effective involvement will be encouraged. Provinces and local government must come up with specific programmes that will respond to their unique challenges.

Working together to speed up economic growth and transform the economy to create decent work and sustainable livelihoods.

Honourable members, the transformation of the biodiversity sector is significant in the creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods that could benefit millions of our people. The conservation estate provides a key resource for the empowerment of local communities. Ecotourism opportunities and nature based or “green” jobs associated with conservation and biodiversity will need further enhancement.

We are the third most biodiversity rich country in the world. This means we have a diversity of landscapes and natural beauty to match our diversity in culture and language. Increasingly, this natural beauty is used to untangle the social injustices of the past and unlock economic benefits to local communities.
v However, this resource base has not been sufficiently unpacked to provide direct benefits to communities. If we are to truly deal with the grinding poverty that our people live in, we must find creative and collaborative ways of extending the benefits accrued from such developments to ordinary South Africans.

The rich natural resources are not benefiting all sectors of society equitably. In order to address the transformation of the biodiversity sector the department will focus on the development of a comprehensive framework for sector transformation.

The department has noted the important contribution that the hunting industry makes to our Gross Domestic Products (GDP). The industry alone injected an estimated income of US$ 91 212 875 (equivalent of R753 million) in the 2006/07 financial year. This industry, based on the country’s rich fauna, has therefore been identified as providing a potential platform for broadening the participation of local communities in economic activities. Working together with the hunting industry, the department has initiated a process to establish a transformation charter. Consultations with industry representatives have been initiated. The department will publish national norms and standards for the hunting industry for implementation by March 2010, which will form part of the transformation agenda of the department.

Working together we need to act now to avoid further damage caused by climate change.

Honourable members, climate change is a threat to the stability of our country and, if left unattended, can cause serious damage not only to the environment but to the entire ecosystem and our ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There is a great need to demystify the climate change debate and ensure that our people have a full understanding of human activities that contribute to climate change. It is with that in mind that we declared this month Environment Month, with our celebrations guided by the theme “SA Act Now! Combat Climate Change.” This is a clarion call for all of us to act responsibly in our quest to ultimately combat this phenomenon.

We will earnestly implement programmes using policy tools like the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios, Climate Change Response Policy and a host of others that will guide us as we deal with this challenge.

While South Africa has to continue to pursue programmes for mitigation, it is important that it also strengthens its capacity to adapt to the catastrophes related to the effects of climate change. To this end, the South African Weather Services (SAWS) will strengthen its ability to enhance the resilience of South Africa and the South African Development Community (SADC) region against the impacts of climate variability and change through, amongst others investing in state of the art data collection, communication and processing infrastructure.

The South African Weather Service will also collaborate with the Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) branch to derive synergies that will see MCM gaining access to SAWS aeroplanes to monitor the pollution of the sea while the SAWS will be allowed access to MCM shipping vessels to mount their equipment for weather predictions. With oceans covering over 70% of the earth’s surface it is pivotal that we recognise the role they play in regulating climate and weather, as many people remain largely unaware of the key connections between a healthy ocean, a healthy climate and our future. Joint national projects with other stakeholders will be undertaken to address this shortcoming. The 8 June has been declared by the United Nations to be World Oceans Day and South Africa also celebrated it.

Marine resource management:

It is important to continue to pursue our programmes of protecting our marine life, given that there is already a decline of the stocks with some of the species being endangered, e.g. the shark. Hence 2009 has been declared the year of the shark. On the basis of the importance of the oceans, I have declared October as Marine Month to focus on the significance of our seas and marine life.

On the basis of available science, we have significant numbers of populations in the top ocean predators, i.e. the shark and the whale. On that basis we will add these two species to the big five and then have a resultant big seven.

The declining fish stocks pose a huge challenge to fisheries management in South Africa this is not only a national phenomenon, but a global problem with approximately 25% of the world’s marine fish stocks being considered over exploited. This requires innovative management strategies if we want to ensure the sustainability of our marine living resources. A government wide intervention is required in the coastal communities to address coastal poverty and alternative livelihood opportunities in light of declining fish stocks.

Consequently, we will cooperate with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in promoting and supporting the growth of the fisheries production (marine and freshwater) aquaculture.

A Fishing Capacity Management regime that entails matching vessel capacity with quota allocations has been implemented in the hake industry and it is envisaged that it be extended to other fishing sectors.

The applications for the transfer of commercial fishing rights will now be processed in line with the recently approved Policy Rights Allocations On Tuna And Swordfish as well as the appeals will be processed and finalised in terms of the recently approved policy on the allocation of additional Total Allowable Effort (TAE) in the Large Pelagics (Tuna and Swordfish).

A draft policy on subsistence/small-scale fisheries, gazetted on 12 December 2008, was followed by an extensive public participation process until March 2009. Challenges on subsistence/small scale fisheries included a decline in fish stocks, court proceedings and stakeholder reluctance which delayed the process. The department will continue its engagement within National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) and with other stakeholders to finalise this process.

Building a better Africa and a better world:

The Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA’s) programme is a key output of the department aimed at contributing towards the creation of an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth and development. Over the last five years, three tourist access facilities have been constructed and opened. They include the Giriyondo (links South Africa and Mozambique), Mata Mata and Sendelingsdrift (links South Africa and Namibia).

Subsequent to the opening of these facilities, there has been a significant increase in tourists passing through the gates with a total of 65 700 visitors linking to other neighbouring states. The construction of Tweerevieren tourist access facility within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (which links South Africa and Botswana) is complete and the plan is to have it opened in the second half of 2009.

Six months before the crucial negotiations on climate change in Copenhagen, the meeting of the African Ministers Council on Environment (AMCEN) chaired by South Africa, reached a landmark position on climate change in Nairobi. African ministers on the environment identified substantially scaled up finance, technology and capacity building as necessities for Africa to combat climate change. South Africa is participating actively in this process, with a view to achieving an inclusive, fair and effective international climate change regime that achieves a balance between adaptation and mitigation, as well as a balance between development and climate imperatives, and a comprehensive international programme on the implementation of adaptation.

Crime:

Honourable members, we are aware that most of the environmental crimes are often committed by organised crime syndicates with international connections. In order to address these crimes adequately, enforcement and compliance capacity needs to be increased, but that is only effective if we bring the criminal justice system into the equation. Partnerships with security institutions such as South African Police Service (SAPS), National Prosecuting Authority, the National Inteligency Agency (NIA), the Asset Forfeiture Unit (ASU) and the Department of Defence in order to deal more effectively with such environmental crimes are crucial.

We will ensure that we strengthen our capacity to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes, enforcing a zero tolerance approach to illegal and unsustainable exploitation of resources. We have consulted with the Minister of Justice with the aim to strengthen our capacity to tackle the environmental crime activities and to this end; we will re-open the environmental courts.

These courts will, as part of the criminal justice system, tackle all environmental criminal activities, for if we fail to deal decisively with those who continue to plunder our resources and pollute our ecosystems with impunity, we will be failing in our responsibility of conserving our environment. I would also like to urge our communities to work with us in dealing with those who show scant regard for the laws of our country. Environmental laws must also be respected and adhered to, that we need to emphasise.

Balancing the Impact of Development on the Environment effectively:

The department exceeded the target it had set for itself by processing 90% of National Environmental Impact Assessments according to standard procedures within the stipulated time frames throughout the year. The requirement for EIA appeals was to provide 95% of technical input within the stipulated timeframes for feedback on appeals. This requirement was also met.

The National Environmental Management Amendment Act, Act 62 of 2008 which came into effect on 1 May 2009 opened the door to a new and improved environmental impact assessment and management regime for South Africa. That system will move us away from an environmental impact management approach that is solely reliant on EIA to a system where the EIA tools form but one in a variety of instruments to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in environmental impact management. The development of the EIM strategy to fully implement the new legislation will be the main priority of the EIM function.

Improving the quality of air that we breathe:

To achieve one of government’s priorities of a healthy nation, we will give careful attention to the quality of the air we breathe. The year 2009 is a watershed year in air quality governance in South Africa and 9/11 will assume a new meaning to air quality management stakeholders in South Africa. The 11th of September 2009 will see the complete repeal of the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (APPA) of 1965 and the coming into full force of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act of 2004. This final ‘Change of Guards’ from APPA to AQA is a product of a long transition which has been carefully steered by the department with a number of transition projects to ensure a smooth passing of the baton.

I am confident that under the portfolio of Water and Environmental Affairs as an integrated department, we will continue to deliver on our mandate in the next financial year, and would like to thank all staff members and stakeholders for their hard work and dedication.

Issued by: Department of Water and Environmental Affairs
18 June 2009

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