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Launch of State of the Environment Reporting in South Africa

26 Oct 1999 - South Africa's available freshwater resources are already almost fully utilised and under stress. At present many water resources are polluted by industrial effluents, domestic and commercial sewage, acid mine drainage, agricultural runoff and litter. Water will increasingly become a limiting resource and the supply will become a major restriction to the future socio-economic development.

These are some of the conclusions in the new State of the Environment South Africa which was launched on internett today. It was the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Mohammed Valli Moosa in South Africa that launched the report.

State of the Environment South Africa gives the public access to the latest information about the environmental condition. In addition to the national report for South Africa, four metropolitan areas, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria also launched their State of the environment. These cities join Arendal in Norway and Turku in Finland in the growing line up of 27 world cities with State of the Environment reports on the Internet.

Moosa said that the greatest challenge facing South Africa, and indeed, the rest of the world, is to improve quality of human life for both present and future generations, without depleting our natural capital.

'This can only be achieved if we have a healthy natural environment, which can supply us with raw materials, absorb and treat our waste products, and maintain water, soil and air quality. Food security, water provision and climate stability depend on having properly functioning ecosystems, maintained levels of biodiversity, sustainable rates of resource extraction, and a minimal production of waste and pollution.'

'Today we are giving the people of this country access to a very powerful tool: the knowledge of the environment in which they live and work. I hope that through reporting we will raise awareness in our country of environmental issues and the importance of preserving it for generations to come,' Moosa said.

The report, jointly coordinated by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and CSIR Environmentek, contains extensive information on the environment and will be updated regularly to reflect changes. It explains causes of change in the state of the environment, the current status of the environment and our response to changes in environmental conditions.

Some of the conclusions in State of the Environment South Africa:

* The levels of sulphur dioxide, nitric oxide and ozone are on average within the accepted South African guidelines for human health and the prevention of direct ecosystem damage. The measured concentrations at ground level are not currently showing an upward trend. However data from the National Network on Smoke and sulphur dioxide suggest that for may sites in urban areas, especially those near industrial zones, the concentration of smoke particles in the air is higher than desirable. In some cases being twice the annual guideline.

* There are occasions, especially in the major urban areas, where the concentrations of sulphur dioxide, nitric oxide, ozone and smoke particles could lead to health problems in people with respiratory problems.

* Terrestrial resources are under pressure due to conversion of natural habitat to farmland, forestry, human settlement, and industrial development. Some species are under threat from over-collection for medicinal, ornamental, and horticultural purposes. Invasion by alien species of plants and animals is a major problem nationally.

*Ultra Violet B radiation is in the dangerous to very dangerous categories for almost half the year in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.

* In general the worst air quality in South Africa occurs when wood, dung or coal is used as fuel inside poorly-ventilated dwellings, in informal settlements and rural villages. The guideline concentration (set by the World Health Organisation, from a health perspective) is 125 milligrams per cubic metre. The highest single recording for the same time period was 1600 milligram per cubic metres.

Cities State of the Environment Reports:

Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria participated in the Cities Environment Report On the Internet (CEROI) project, which is an international project based on the Local Agenda 21 concept. Its aim is to facilitate access to environmental information for decision making and general awareness raising in cities to support sustainable development.

The Greater Pretoria Metropolitan Council's (GPMC) report revealed that specific attention should be given to issues such as waste, housing and urban growth, environmental governance and environmental training. These findings were translated into goals, objectives and possible projects of the 2000/2001 financial year, which concurs with and support the findings of the GPMC's Environmental Policy.

The Cape Metropolitan Area's report (CMA) clearly indicates that there is increasing pressure on the CMA's natural, social and cultural resources, and identifies priority issues that need to be addressed by management strategies and other initiatives. The State of the Environment also plays a significant role in informing the development of the Integrated Metropolitan Environmental Policy.

The present day environment of Greater Johannesburg has been created by the city's history of rapid development and urbanisation. The project has allowed the city to identify the main areas of concern where environmental intervention is urgently required. It therefore serves as an important tool to support decision making at a local level by the Council, while empowering local communities with knowledge of those issues which impact on their quality of life and on their living environments.

Durban's Local Agenda 21 programme was initiated in 1994. An Environmental Branch, within the Urban Development Department of the Physical Environment Service Unit, was subsequently created. The goal of Durban's Local Agenda 21 is the development of an Environmental Management System to guide the city towards environmentally sustainable development. The current report will give an overview of the human-induced impact on the environment in the Durban Metropolitan Area, indicate the present state of the environment and current trends and pressures, as well as society's responses to these urban environmental problems. The report will be a tool for reporting on the progress made in achieving sustainable development objectives and fulfilling statutory planning and environmental obligations.

The project is supported financially by the United Nations Environmental Programme, the Norwegian Ministry of Environment and the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund. It is technically supported through a public research development contract with the Norwegian software company, Ugland Publikit and GRID-Arendal. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism coordinated the project in South Africa.

The State of the Environment Reports can be accessed at the following Internet addresses:

National Report:
Cape Town Metropolitan Area:
Durban Metropolitan Area:
Pretoria Metropolitan Area
Johannesburg Metropolitan Area:

(See also: Opening speech By the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Mohammed Valli Moosa.)

Tuesday 26 Oct 1999
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