Anton Bredell, Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning said that protecting the environment is of critical importance, as all the scientific data confirms that our current way of life is putting unsustainable strain on the environment. “Threats like climate change and ongoing biodiversity crime require urgent attention, and if we do not provide the needed budgets and human resources, we won’t be able to mitigate against it,” Minister Bredell warned.
Minister Bredell was responding to the fact that the 5th of June is recognised as World Environment Day, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972.
“101 of the 138 freshwater ecosystems in the Western Cape are threatened, of which 73 are Critically Endangered. This is causing concern for our indigenous freshwater fish species. If we do not remove invasive alien vegetation from catchment areas, it could lead to the total collapse of agricultural economies in areas such as the Olifants, Breede and Berg River Valleys. However, a mere R1million investment in alien clearing can support economies worth billions of rands,” Minister Bredell said.
This year’s World Environment Day theme is plastic pollution. Minister Bredell said South Africa generates 2.4m tons of plastic waste per year, which translates to approximately 41kg per person, of which only 14% is recycled.
“Not only is plastic manufacturing highly resource intensive and dependent on fossil fuel extraction, but the plastics discarded persists in nature long thereafter. The impacts of plastic pollution on the marine environment are globally recognised, and as a coastal province, the Western Cape is also not immune to its impact,” Minister Bredell said.
The Western Cape Province has developed a strategy to reduce illegal dumping, and reports quarterly on the interventions. The province is also planning to establish hubs to valorise waste plastics that are illegally dumped, which will be processed and recovered for recycled products. Not only should this improve the aesthetics of the area, but will also empower and foster SMME entrepreneurship, with job opportunities within the communities that are impacted upon, Minister Bredell said.
Minister Bredell congratulated the work CapeNature, as the conservation authority in the Western Cape, has done in the past 23 years to ensure that the natural environment and provincial nature reserves are conserved for generations to come.
Currently the entity manages 1 030 429ha of protected areas including formal stewardship sites and six marine protected areas. In the past 10 years more than 300 000ha of private land was added to the conservation estate thanks to land acquisition by WWF-SA’s Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust and CapeNature’s Stewardship Programme.
To combat threats to biodiversity like climate change, habitat loss, and overconsumption, CapeNature identified several biodiversity corridors which allow for both fauna and flora species to find safe refuge and improve resilience against these threats. Protected Area Management Plans address concerns in terms of endangered species and water management. Currently 16% of indigenous fauna and flora in the Western Cape is threatened ranging from Vulnerable to Endangered and Critically Endangered.
CapeNature prioritises clearing invasive alien plants, especially in demarcated strategic water source areas, working closely with the Greater Cape Town Water Fund to target key City of Cape Town water catchments to improve water supply, Minister Bredell said.
Source: Government of South Africa