Water Research Commission launches the world’s first ’Mine Water Atlas’

The Water Research Commission (WRC) today set the trend as world leaders with the launch of the world’s first ’mine water atlas’ in partnership with consulting firm Golder Associates. The event was also part of the World Water Day Celebrations that saw the global Launch of the UN World Water Development Report 2017: “Wastewater: The Untapped Resource” at the international conference centre, Durban, South Africa. The mine water atlas was officially launched by the honourable Minister of Water and Sanitation, Ms. Nomvula Mokonyane.   

The South African Mine Water Atlas, provides a comprehensive reference on the vulnerability of water resources to mining activity in South Africa and will be launched at the United Nations World Water Day event on 23 March 2017, at the Durban ICC. The Atlas will highlight the critical interplay between mining and water resources and will be the most extensive set of documents of its kind. “We’re very excited about this project. It’s a world first. No country in the world has done this before,” said Water Research Commission research manager Dr Jo Burgess. The project, which was led by consulting firm Golder Associates, aimed to deliver the most comprehensive document of its kind in South Africa.

The Atlas will introduce mine water and its geological, hydrological and legal context, while examining the geographical foundations of water quantity, quality and distribution, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing South Africa as it strives to improve the quantity, quality, protection and use of its water resources.  “Decision-makers will be able to look to the Atlas for background information and tools to assist in fulfilling commitments made in other recent events and declarations,” explained Burgess. “The Atlas uses various measures to illustrate South Africa’s hydrological characteristics by charting and mapping water resources on a provincial scale.”  Further, each mining-affected province and the challenges, and opportunities it faces are addressed.

The Mine Water Atlas in application:

The multi-layered set of maps spans all mineral provinces in South Africa and particularly drills down into the areas where mining frequently takes place. The maps chart the water resources in the various provinces and in turn are overlaid with maps of mining and mineral-refining activities, in order to understand the locations at which surface and groundwater and mining collide. The Atlas is intended to help mining companies, investors, government departments and students get a better understanding of the impact of mining on water resources. While it is an extremely useful guide, the Atlas does not replace Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) or tell you where you can or can’t mine, but assists with the decision-making process around the likely impacts of mining activity in a given mineral region. The Atlas can be used to see what the potential liabilities may be and what the focus of mitigation measures may need to be to protect water resources in an area of operation; for example, water treatment plants may be needed to ensure water discharges from the mines are of good quality and won’t damage the environment or pose a risk to public health.

Mining often comes under the spotlight for water pollution problems. Uncontrolled discharge of acid, neutral, and saline mining-impacted water can have a devastating effect on surface and ground water resources. Acidic water leaching out of mine dumps can flow into rivers or streams, stop plants from growing and kill the food chain from the bottom up. When left unchecked, the dirty water generated from mining activities finds its way into surface water features such as rivers and wetlands, negatively impacting both downstream users and the aquatic environment.

• The Atlas will help government departments to visualise and highlight areas that are very risky, and help define the key questions for impact assessment

• It will serve as an educational reference for legislators as well as universities.

• It is geared towards raising awareness among the public about the critical link between water and mining.

The Mine Water Atlas for South Africa’s primary benefit lies in the ability to assess cumulative impacts of mining in a catchment, through the understanding of the presence of upstream mines (both operational and derelict) and the sensitivity of the receiving water environment. This in turn will enable an improved understanding of an individual’s mine’s potential impact versus the cumulative impact.

The Water Research Commission is committed to leading research that will continue to produce ground breaking interventions such as the Mine Water Atlas and will continue to partner with industry to translate leading research into tangible implementations that ultimately inform legislation, drive innovation, educate the public and ultimately improve the quality and quantity of water resources.

How much it costs to hunt the Big Five in South Africa

A new report compiled by the US Democrats Natural Resources Committee outlines how hunting is hurting wildlife populations more than helping save them – as is often cited as the reason to allow the practice.

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In its report, titled “Missing the Mark”, the NRC notes that money paid to nations like South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to hunt wildlife does little to aid conservation, thanks to poor levels of management in wildlife programmes.

The report said that despite the justification of aiding conservation, populations of the animals most sought after (specifically the ‘big five’) have seen massive decline, with certain species (such as the Northern Black rhino) on the brink of extinction.

“On paper, all four countries examined in this report have equally strong frameworks for ensuring that trophy hunts benefit species conservation. Unfortunately, the implementation of these frameworks has in many cases been marred by corruption and has not produced the advertised and desired results,” the NSC said.

“Even in countries with better execution of wildlife conservation plans, significant questions remain about whether or not trophy hunting is sustainable.”

The NSC noted that keeping track of wildlife data is difficult, as many of the countries base their figures on old data, or are completely unreliable in their reporting.

Declining wildlife populations

  • African Elephant – 420,000 – 650,000
  • White Rhino – fewer than 16,000
  • Black Rhino – fewer than 5,000
  • Leopard – undetermined, but fewer than 4,000 (South Africa), 14,000 (Namibia)
  • African Lion – fewer than 20,000

The report also outlined the average cost of hunting the “big five” – one of the biggest hunting draws on the continent – which ranges between R2.8 million and R4.4 million-plus to get the whole ‘set’.

  • Lion – $8,500-$50,000
  • Elephant – $25,000-$60,000
  • White Rhino – $125,000+
  • Leopard – $15,000-$35,000
  • Buffalo – $12,500-$17,000
  • Average cost – $186,000 – $287,000+

Looking specifically at South Africa, the NSC pointed out that the country is one of the more effective when it comes to hunting and conservation, but raised the issue of rhino poaching which South Africa has failed to stop.

According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), South Africa has lost more than R1.3 billion to rhino poaching since 2008.

“Wildlife management in South Africa is generally better funded than in many other places on the continent, but the country’s wildlife population has been hit hard by poaching in recent years, particularly with respect to its white rhino population,” the group said.

“While trophy hunting industry proponents assert that the presence of hunting operations deters poaching, there is no evidence of such an effect. Rhino poaching has soared during the last decade even as the South African government has encouraged trophy hunting.”

The report also noted that South Africa has recently come under increasing fire for allowing the practice of canned hunting – and has also fallen victim in recent years to a phenomenon known as “pseudo-hunting,” whereby individuals associated with wildlife trafficking rings participate in legally permitted hunts for white rhino with the intention of selling the trophy for profit.

Game hunting in South Africa

A poll run by BusinessTech in 2015 found that 63% of South Africans would be in favour of hunting being banned in South Africa.

However, imposing such ban would have far-reaching, detrimental consequences for one of the country’s biggest industries.

Game hunting is a multi-billion rand industry in South Africa, bringing in over R6.6 billion in various sectors tied directly to the industry (such as the purchasing of permits, meat processing, taxidermy etc), while also boosting other industries such as tourism.

According to the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA), game hunting keeps hundreds of businesses going, employing thousands, while also funding conservation projects in the country.

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Tanzania: Unesco Steps Up Conservation of World Heritage Sites

Arusha — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has issued a new declaration aimed at strengthening conservation of the world heritage sites.

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The document released, read and adopted at the end of an international conference on the heritage sites in Arusha which ended at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) over the weekend.

The “Ngorongoro Declaration on World Heritage and Sustainable Development 2016” was read before delegates by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Gaudence Milanzi.

“This is going to be a windfall to all communities around living within or around the world heritage sites across the world, including Tanzania and specifically here at Ngorongoro,” he said. The Declaration stressed that contrary assertion in some quarters, conservation was a key driver to sustainable development and must be embraced by policy makers in all countries.

Under it the main beneficiaries should be the communities living around them, he stressed as scores of delegates, many of them wildlife researchers, conservation experts and tourism officials toured the iconic Ngorongoro Crater.

A world heritage site is a place or man-made structure which is preserved because of its special cultural or physical significance to the global community and listed by Unesco.

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Source: allafrica

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Eco-tourism in South Africa’s winelands

The Cape Floral Kingdom

Most of South Africa’s vineyards lie in the Cape Floral Kingdom, the world’s smallest yet richest plant kingdom. Recognised as a global biodiversity hot-spot, and with World Heritage site status since 2004, the Cape Floral Kingdom and its two main vegetation types, namely fynbos and renosterveld, has come under increasing threat due to urban development, agricultural expansion and invasive alien species.Unlike fynbos, which happily grows in poor soil conditions, renosterveld prefers the sort of fertile, fine-grained soils that are also ideal for cultivating wheat and vines, placing this natural vegetation under even greater threat of being wiped out.Since 80% of the Cape Floral Kingdom is privately owned, it has become obvious over the years that landowner participation in the conservation process is imperative.In 2004, with a mere four percent of pristine renosterveld left untouched and much of the Cape Floral Kingdom’s lowland fynbos ecosystems under threat, the wine industry developed a conservation partnership with the Botanical Society of South Africa, Conservation International and the Green Trust, which led to the establishment of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative.

Biodiversity and Wine Initiative

In a nutshell, the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) aims to minimise the loss of threatened natural habitats, as described above, and contribute to sustainable wine production through better land management practices on farms.In the past, individual members of the BWI have worked hard to establish conservation management plans for their land. While they have done great things in raising the profile of biodiversity conservation and eco-tourism, many of them are working in isolation.To put the widespread support of the BWI in perspective, there are over 150 accredited members. Members contract to conserve a minimum of two hectares of natural or restored vegetation on their land, while champion members (of which there are currently 15) are those who have established a full conservation management plan and have committed to conserving at least 10% of their natural land area.In 2008, conservation history was made when the conservation footprint in the winelands exceeded the vineyard footprint for the first time. What this means is that in less than four years, the wine industry has succeeded in setting more area aside for long term conservation than is currently planted under vineyard.With this achievement, South Africa is leading the world in the conservation of biodiversity in this environment. It also illustrates the industry’s commitment to protecting our unique natural heritage.

Conservancies joint eco-tourism activities

Right now, one of the most exciting emerging trends in eco-tourism in the Western Cape is the way in which wine regions are getting involved by establishing conservancies and developing joint eco-tourism activities, drawing on the network of producers within the same area and pooling their resources.The result is of far greater benefit to the individual, while also raising the profile of the entire region.Engaging with environmentally aware travellers has never been more fashionable or more important. By teaming up with their neighbours, producers are no longer competing for individual attention and business but are rather maximising what’s on offer in terms of accommodation, entertainment and diversions within their region. This not only keeps visitors in the area for longer but also heightens awareness.BWI is focusing on assisting the cooperation of individual landowners to form regional conservancies, says Inge Kotze, BWI project coordinator.

World’s first biodiversity wine route

A fine example of this is the Green Mountain Eco-Route, the world’s first biodiversity wine route, incorporating the area around the Groenland mountain and including Bot River, Elgin, Grabouw, Houw Hoek and Villiersdorp.Within easy driving distance of Cape Town, the scenic beauty of the route is ideal as a weekend getaway. Visitors may choose from mountain biking, hiking, luxury farm accommodation, local produce markets, restaurants and wedding venues, not to mention exceptional wine tasting opportunities at participating BWI member farms (Paul Cluver, Beaumont Wines and Oak Valley to name a few).Paul Cluver, in partnership with Slowine, has also introduced a biodiversity trail around the Groenland mountain. The “Take a Hike” five-day hiking trail brings you up close and personal with the natural beauty of participating farms and wine estates, some of which provide overnight accommodation facilities.

The Darling Wine Route

Darling, again less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town, is the first wine producing district to be awarded BWI membership status as a district, with all individual farms, including Cloof, Burghers Post, Groote Post, Ormonde and Darling Cellars, achieving accreditation.The Darling Wine Route offers numerous attractions, from glorious wildflower displays in the spring to guided game drives and walks.Rocking the Daisies is an annual music and lifestyle festival held in October. Held at Cloof Wine Estate and endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund, its motto is suitably eco-friendly: “play hard, tread lightly”.

Groote Post

Groote Post has recently celebrated 10 years of wine making, has a long history in conservation and hopes to become a BWI “champion” in the near future. It was one of the driving forces in establishing the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, which incorporates the Groote Post farm and stretches from the Milnerton lagoon to Langebaan.Groote Post is home to 2 175 hectares of conservation worthy natural vegetation, including the endangered Swartland granite renosterveld, Swartland shale renosterveld and Atlantis sand fynbos.Eco-tourism opportunities on the farm include wine tasting, Hilda’s Kitchen (a country restaurant named after local cook Hilda Gonda Duckitt), nature walks, game drives to view the farm’s many antelope, and excellent bird-watching. The farm also holds great appeal as part of the famous West Coast spring flower route.

Biodiversity and Wine Walks

In the Helderberg Basin, the Schapenberg Sir Lowry’s Conservancy recently launched its Biodiversity and Wine Walks (“Walks for Wine”) in the Sir Lowry’s Pass area.Participating in the project are six wine farms, namely Waterkloof (wine tasting and a smart new restaurant is on offer here), Onderkloof (with a tea garden), Mount Rozier, Journey’s End, Wedderwill, and Da Capo together with other landowners over whose properties the walks will traverse.The aim is to restore and preserve the land within the Schapenberg Sir Lowry’s Conservancy identified by the City of Cape Town as critical and irreplaceable biodiversity corridors. A large part of this area was ravaged by devastating fires in February 2009.The guided walks follow these biodiversity corridors, educating the public as to their importance while raising funds towards their restoration and preservation.

Greater Simonsberg Conservancy

Some 24 landowners around the Simonsberg have joined forces and established The Greater Simonsberg Conservancy in an attempt to save the Cape Floral Kingdom.The Delvera Agri-tourism Centre is a focal point of the Conservancy, and offers retail therapy (from olives and ceramics to fashion and wool), a choice of restaurants, a plant nursery, activities for kids and very well organised outdoor pursuits including walking, hiking, birdwatching, and mountain biking (Delvera is also the headquarters of Dirtopia Trail Centre).Particularly popular are the full-moon hikes each month. Hikers walk to the top of Klapmutskop, where there is an indigenous yellowwood forest and wraparound view of False Bay, Table Mountain, Franschhoek and Paarl.There are many more examples of wine farms joining forces to protect their heritage. For BWI’s Inge Kotze, “it’s incredibly rewarding to see members progressing from individual membership to compliance at a district level, demonstrating how this project is all about action on the ground through the ongoing dedication and commitment to conserving our unique Cape winelands”.

The Alternative Winelands Tour

Dreamcatcher is a unique organisation that focuses exclusively on community-based tourism in South Africa. It was established 25 years ago with the aim of empowering local people, in particular women, through tourism.The Alternative Winelands Tour, facilitated by Dreamcatcher, offers a heart-warming and educational alternative to the mainstream Cape Winelands experience.The tour features insights into the lives of labourers who worked the land during establishment of the Western Cape’s wine estates, enabling visitors to learn about the challenges of hostel and farm life and how the community has developed to present day.The tour visits wine estates that have demonstrated a commitment to employees (such as providing access to land and technical assistance to start their own wine label), and features a unique opportunity to prepare (and sample!) traditional food during a cook-up with the “Kamammas” (local women from the area).According to Jennifer Seif, Executive Director of Fair Trade Tourism South Africa, The Alternative Winelands Tour “is an excellent example of professionally organised community-based tourism,” opening a window on the lives of ordinary South Africans “through food, story-telling, wine, music and truly South African hospitality at its best.”The tour communicates the diversity and majesty of the Cape Winelands through sight-seeing, wine-tasting and personal interaction with farm workers and community members who open their homes to guests.The involvement of the Dreamcatcher Foundation ensures that tourism revenue is ploughed back into community and enterprise development programmes, so the tour is not only enjoyable and educational, but also sustainable.


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South African Conservationist Wins WWF Award

Andrew Zaloumis, the long-serving chief executive of iSimangaliso Wetland Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal, has been awarded World Wildlife Fund South Africa’s 2015 Living Planet Award.

In making the award, the conservation group noted Zaloumis’s inspirational conservation work and the economic turnaround of the nature reserve, once an apartheid operational zone with one of the lowest human development indices in the country.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa’s third-largest protected area, covering 280km of coastline, from the Mozambique border to St Lucia. The park is a Unesco World Heritage Site, recognised for its rich biodiversity and the unique variety of irreplaceable ecosystems contained within its relatively small area.

The park’s sites include coral reefs, dune forests, wetlands and savanna grassland. It is home to a large wildlife population, including elephant, leopard, black and white rhino and buffalo, as well as whales, dolphins and endangered marine turtles.

The management of iSimangaliso, for which Zaloumis has been recognised by WWF SA, co-ordinates the administration and protection of the park. It also offers meaningful job empowerment and benefits for local communities. In awarding Zaloumis the recognition, the WWF highlighted his inspirational work over the last 30 years in making the area one of South Africa’s conservation tourism hallmarks.

In his acceptance speech, Zaloumis said that in order for places like iSimangaliso to continue to exist, society would have to think beyond the extractive values of conservation economics and rather acknowledge the real value of nature – the impact it has on the soul.

Zaloumis spoke of a time, in 1994, when industry threatened to dredge-mine the dunes of Lake St Lucia for titanium, stripping the wetlands of its most vital resource: water. Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s dedication to conservation-based ecotourism, half-a-million South Africans signed a petition to stop the development and focus on preserving the natural importance of the area.

“The (then) new democratic government of South Africa… showed the world that there were socially- and environmentally-sustainable economic alternatives to smoke-stack industries,” Zaloumis said.

iSimangaliso, he added, “offers hope and a new model of conservation to other wild places… It is a real privilege being able to work for the economic turnaround of a region and see tangible benefits for local people, while, and at the same time, restoring original game populations, ecosystems functioning and the natural wonders of [the park].”

Another notable highlight for Zaloumis was the reintroduction of the lion population in 2013. It was the first time in over 40 years lions were seen in iSimangaliso.

Zaloumis accepted the award on behalf of the iSimangaliso team, the local community and his family, but paid special tribute to his father, who inspired his love of nature and the area where he had come as a boy to study the wetland’s duck population.

WWF SA chairman Valli Moosa said the award was an important recognition of Zaloumis’s passion for conservation, rewarding “his boldness, visionary approach and courage to bring an inclusive form of conservation to an area that was once an apartheid operational zone and had one of the lowest human development indices in the country”.

Source: allafrica

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$80m to help preserve SA flora and fauna

South Africa’s environmental affairs department has accessed US $80 million from international sources to assist in preserving flora and fauna amidst the impact of

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climate change, Minister Edna Molewa said on Thursday.

“US 30.6 million of this total has already been approved and a further US$49,8m already endorsed. These internationally-supported initiatives will promote organic waste-to-energy and other low-carbon technologies in small and medium-scale enterprises,” Molewa told reporters in Cape Town.

She was addressing journalists at Parliament before presenting her department’s budget vote in the National Assembly.

Molewa said South Africa was gradually moving towards the use of greener energy, with a target set for 2030.

“By 2030, South Africa will have an efficient, lower-carbon public transport system that makes everyday use of private vehicles an unnecessary extravagance. By 2030 our houses, offices and commercial building will no longer be energy drains, but rather energy sources – supplying electricity to communities through smart meters and smart grids,” she said.

She said through the climate change response policy and the green economy strategy, Africa’s industrial and economic powerhouse would continue to work diligently to meet targets on emissions reduction and air quality standards with the ultimate aim of transitioning to a low-carbon, climate resilient economy and society.

Molewa said in a bid to boost the buoyant tourism sector, her department had an initiative to improve service delivery and base infrastructure in the country’s national parks.

“We are also repairing flood damaged bulk infrastructure. An amount of R950 million has been allocated to SANParks for infrastructural development, while another R42 million has been allocated for road improvements for the period of 2015/16 to 2017/18. An additional R12 million has been allocated to repair of SANParks’ flood damaged infrastructure for 2015/16,” she said.

“These initiatives create sustainable employment for many communities adjacent to national parks in remote and rural areas; they also contribute to driving rural and regional sustainable development.”

Source: IOL

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North West ready to launch agri-parks

It’s all systems go for the implementation of agri-parks in the North West province.

This after the recentvisit by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti and the North West MEC for Rural Environmental and Agricultural Development, Manketsi Tlhape, to the agri-park at Springbokpan.

The visit was to assess the state of readiness of the Springbokpan silos. The Silo is being refurbished as part of the establishment of agri-parks in the province.

Three agri-parks have been identified for the North West province which are Springbokpan, Moretele and Vryburg.

Economically viable sites in all 27 priority districts have been identified across the country for the construction of agri-parks and R2 billion has been made available for the agri-park initiative, of which 1% will go into capacity building especially in municipalities.

The establishment of the agri-parks follows a pronouncement by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address earlier this year when he committed government to promoting agri-parks and transforming rural economies.

Springbokpan agri-parks will consist of Milling (starch and animal), mechanization warehouse, input warehouse as well as Foodbank.

In its essence, the creation of agri-parks will assist the province with amongst others, to contribute to its earmarked 6% economic growth with the Department of Rural Environmental and Agricultural Development being one of the leaders.

It is also meant to ensure job creation, generate revenue as well as to empower women and youth. It is envisaged to attract investment in both domestic and international fund markets and ensure food security in rural households and revival of food gardens in rural areas.

The agri-parks will also implement sub sector operator model to enforce clustering and processing thereby creating market access.

Elaborating on the agri-park concept, MEC Tlhape said the initiative is meant to support farmers.

She said it is important for farmers to be hands-on on the initiative.

The MEC said the farmers have the task of producing what would be in the Silos.

MEC Tlhape said government is still to decide on the percentage that farmers are to contribute to the silos.

“It is therefore up to the farmers to ensure that the agri-parks concept lives,” she said.

Minister Nkwinti spoke eagerly on this national government initiative, adding that the concept is ready for implementation and should therefore go ahead.

The Minister also echoed MEC Tlhape’s sentiments that farmers should be part of the initiative.

He emphasised the need for communities in the North West to ensure that every land is productive.

“If we have a productive land then our Silos would fulfil their purpose,” he said.

The Minister also announced government’s plan for the producers to own 70% of the agri-parks. The remaining 30% will be for government and other contributors.

Minister Nkwinti reiterated that it was important for government to look into the existing infrastructure hence the refurbishment at Springbokpan.

Morule, one of the Ngaka Modiri Molema District farmers, was excited about the agri-park initiative and urged other farmers to embrace it.

He said he was happy that government was now leading them in a way they had always wanted. He said the resuscitation of the silos was long overdue.

With the progress made on the Springbokpan agri-park, Minister Nkwinti was confident that the national launch led by President Jacob Zuma would be hosted by the North West province.

Source: Environment


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Tourism is the point of convergence between the economy and the environment. The prospect of tourism dollars justifies conversation and helps to place an economic value on the environment – as such the tourism sector should be a leader within the area of sustainable business practice, and for some leading companies this is the case.
Tourism is the point of convergence between the economy and the environment. The prospect of tourism dollars justifies conversation and helps to place an economic value on the environment – as such the tourism sector should be a leader within the area of sustainable business practice, and for some leading companies this is the case.

South African communities urged to join fight against rhino poaching

The war on rhino poaching cannot be won without the participation of communities, Chief Executive of the South African National Parks (SANParks) Fundisile Mketeni said on Tuesday.

“While carrying out our work at national, regional and international level to address the scourge of rhino poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, work is also being done at community level by institutions such as SANParks to raise awareness of the plight of the rhino,” Mketeni said at a ceremony marking the World Wildlife Day in the Kruger National Parks (KNP), one of Africa’s biggest game reserves in northeastern South Africa.

The theme for this year’s World Wildlife Day is “Wildlife Crime is serious: let’s get serious about wildlife crime”.

The aim is to highlight the positive role that local communities can play in helping to curb illegal wildlife trade.

As the eyes and ears of the government, the communities must join forces in combating poaching by blowing the whistle on this heinous crime, Mketeni said.

South Africa has adopted a four pillar strategy towards addressing the rhino poaching scourge. A key pillar highlighted in the national strategy focusses on one of the critical game- changing interventions-namely creating opportunities for communities to make alternative economic choices.

South Africa bears the brunt of rhino poaching, losing 1,215 rhinos last year.

South Africa is the custodian of the world’s rhinos. In the country, the loss of rhinos could be equated to a loss of revenue for many communities resulting in a decline in living conditions, a loss of jobs through a decline in tourism and hunting through the country’s sustainable utilisation policy, and a sad loss to a part of the country’s natural and cultural heritage, Mketeni said.

South Africa is home to approximately 21,000 white and black rhinos, of which most are found in the KNP. This represents 93 percent of the world’s total rhino population, according to Mketeni.  “The South African population is one of the last viable rhino populations in the world, which makes it vulnerable. South Africa is, therefore, the last remaining hope for the world, in terms of rhino conservation,” he said.

Rhino poaching, worth billions of dollars, deprives local communities of income that could be used to create jobs and improve livelihood in the long term instead of benefiting a small group of criminals in the short-term, Mketeni said.

Even internationally, through the sustainable development goals, there are calls to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade by increasing capacity of the local communities so as to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for future generations, he said.

In going forward, South Africa is embarking on a number of new initiatives around the KNP with a focus on projects that support the game-changing pillar of South Africa’s integrated rhino strategy, according to Mketeni.

This includes, for example, addressing basic human needs such as water provision to poor neighboring communities to be funded through rhino-related programmes, to economic opportunities associated with various benefits derived from live rhinos through community-managed rhino conservation initiatives.

In the short term, the SANParks seeks to focus on communities bordering the southern KNP Intensive Rhino Protection Zone (IPZ) with the broader vision expanding around the extent of the park’s border.

The focus has been on the community and the youth-not only the role they can play, or are playing, in combating rhino poaching, but in assisting to protect the country’s natural heritage and their economic future, Mketeni said.



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Mining imminent in West Coast’s biosphere reserve?

By Marie-Louise Antoni

It is hard to imagine “Putting nature first” as the slogan of a mining company. It’s a bold statement to make when it plans to strip-mine phosphate in an environmentally sensitive and internationally significant area. But that is what Elandsfontein Exploration and Mining claims it is doing as it sets out to mine on the border of the West Coast National Park.

The company, known as EEM, already holds prospecting rights, but obtaining mining rights will be a battle, because the minister of mineral resources can turn down or limit applications that affect critical biodiversity, heritage or areas of hydrological importance. The application is challenged by all three aspects.

But the company is confident about its prospects. “From a legal standpoint, we believe it will be compliant. We’re legally within our rights to proceed with the application,” said Michelle Schroder, metallurgical manager and spokesperson for the mine.

Mine right in the heart of the biosphere reserve

The site falls within the biosphere reserve and lies on the West Coast, just over an hour north of Cape Town. An aerial view shows an expanse of green pooling out from the Langebaan lagoon, spreading inland to the town of Hopefield about 30km away. Much of this land belongs to the park, which is world-renowned for its flora and birdlife, and the lagoon is an international windsurfing mecca and vital to tourism.

Every year, the park attracts more than 200 000 tourists and creates 20 000 permanent jobs, indirectly sustaining about 100 000 people.

The proposed mine lies at the very heart of this area, in the park’s buffer zone, within a critical biodiversity area (CBA). About 400 hectares will be actively mined, and another 220 hectares have been set aside for further development. And the deposit is mammoth – the second largest in the country – with ore tonnage weighing in at about 90-million.

The local economy has traditionally been supported by more sustainable industries such as agriculture, fishing, conservation and tourism, and the site falls well outside the Saldanha Bay industrial development zone.

Two important aquifers facing risk

The property is zoned for agriculture and was previously a private nature reserve separating two portions of South African National Parks (SANParks) land. It was considered vital to the park’s expansion strategy and earmarked for a biodiversity corridor, which is why SANParks has tried to buy it over the years.

The region is generally water-scarce and the company will be using groundwater, some of which will be pumped back into the system. There are two important aquifers in the area, one of which is believed to seep into the lagoon, which is internationally protected for its wetland ecosystem as a Ramsar site.

“We’re looking at water very closely with the department,” said Schroder. “We’re trying to understand what our potential impact might be and how to mitigate it.”

About 3km to the east lies a rich fossil deposit. A fossilised skull known as the Saldanha Man was found there in the early 1950s. It’s the oldest known human fossil found in the Cape, estimated to be between 400 000 and 700 000 years old. The find brought international attention to the area.

Site of global archeological significance

Middle and Early Stone Age tools of more than a million years in age have also been found, and the site is of global significance. Dr David Braun, who holds the research permit for the archaeological site, noted in a study that the area is “one of the richest sites of its kind in Africa”.

The proposed mine’s infrastructure will also require waste treatment facilities, a slimes dam and power lines, as well as an 18km pipeline to the port in Saldanha. This will run over neighbouring properties, many of which are also CBAs.

A documentary was produced last year by Ron Moller of storyteller productions by UCT environmental law students on the mining of Elandsfontein. They won the best interpretation of environmental law unto film.

But EEM says the deposit is strategic and that, although there isn’t a current shortage of phosphate, global demand is rising. Phosphate is used in agricultural fertilisers, and the company says it is critical to food security.

Between 300 and 400 jobs will be created and 80% of the labour force will be locally sourced. The current life of the mine is estimated at 15 years. The company says it will develop skills and is also looking at bursary schemes for science students at various tertiary institutions.

“We want to move away from the perception that mining is a filthy, dirty thing,” said Schroder, adding that the company is planning significant offsets and rehabilitation.

A mine with positive net effect

“There will be better conservation in the area if we mine than if we don’t,” she said, saying that there will be a 10:1 offset ratio. “Environmental impact has been a critical driver in our decision-making, and we’ve employed the best experts. The net effect is positive.”

When asked whether the application is a difficult one, Philip le Roux, technical manager for the mine, said: “No, not at all. We’re following the letter of the law. We already have prospecting rights and have also received departure from the municipality.”

But has the company done enough to inform those it says will benefit from the mine – the very same people who, should the operations not go according to plan, will be saddled with the consequences?

Le Roux believes it has. “We followed the law. We advertised,” he said. “We’re working with all organs of state and government departments, as well as different organisations. We’re saying: ‘Please come and monitor us so that we can comply.’”

The current process falls under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, and Le Roux said the company is bound by the mineral resources department’s regulations. These state that companies must consult stakeholders and submit their first scoping report within 30 days of notification. “We were expecting a response from the department in January, but it came through in December,” he said.

However, documents show that the company submitted its application on December 9. By law, the department has 14 days to reply, which means the company would have had a response by Christmas Eve at the latest.

No avenue for public comment

In reality, though, the department responded the very next day. But EEM only published its notices on December 19, more than a week later, and well into the holiday period. These notices were placed in two newspapers, alongside a telephone number that did not work.

The mine’s environmental consultant, Olivia Braaf, was notified of this error. She apologised, saying it was a technical fault, but by January 8 it still did not work, even though the deadline for public comments to be included in the first submitted scoping report fell on the same day. But Braaf maintains that the process was legally compliant and that contact could also have been made by email, post or fax.

At public meetings held in Hopefield and Saldanha on January 6 and 8, respectively, several stakeholders complained. One even asked for a letter to be written to the department to request an extension, but instead, project holding costs were cited. The company did say, however, that concerns would be raised with the department.

Complaints absent from meeting minutes

But meeting minutes submitted to the department on January 22 do not mention these discussions, nor was a written objection, dated January 20, included in the report. In fact, the report specifically states that no objections were made. Braaf claims that the written objection did not apply to that stage of the process, but adds that objections have now been included in the final scoping report.

Furthermore, in EEM’s submission to the department, the company states that it intended to hold two sets of public meetings during the scoping phase, but only one set was held. A further environmental impact assessment meeting was scheduled for May this year, but has not yet taken place.

“This is just the start of the process,” said Braaf. She added that the department’s guidelines state that consultations do not end after 30 days. “In fact, further in-depth consultation is required to more substantially inform the environmental impact assessment and environmental management programme. There will thus be ongoing consultation through the process with interested and affected parties and key stakeholders.”

Public participation essential

Tracey Davies, an attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights, said that public participation in mining rights applications is extremely important. “The process takes on an even more significant role when the mining is likely to affect biodiversity priority areas,” she said, referring to the 2013 Mining and Biodiversity Guideline. “The guideline makes it clear that in such cases there may be a greater number of stakeholders interested in and concerned about the proposed activity.”

The 2002 Consultative Forum on Mining and the Environment created a set of public participation guidelines, which were sponsored by the Chamber of Mines. The forum said consultations don’t only benefit the public. When properly conducted, they also benefit mining companies, enabling them to prove due process, which adds to their credibility and is ultimately less costly.

And although there is no blueprint process, the guideline repeatedly uses the example of “an open-cast mine bordering a national park” as an example of where public sensitivity would be high. It also says that public sensitivity heightens with issues such as water catchments, archaeology and areas such as conservancies, nature reserves, national parks, Ramsar sites and heritage sites, and particularly for new developments in previously undisturbed areas.

High to very high public sensitivity matrix

These guidelines (confirmed by the 2013 Mining and Biodiversity Guideline) include a public sensitivity matrix, ranging from very low to very high. Because of the tangle of factors to be considered, the mine’s application could fall under the “high” to “very high” categories.

This would mean extensive public consultations, media releases and radio announcements, and between 200 and 400 stakeholders should be identified (or, depending on its classification, between 1 000 and 3 000). Currently, the company’s publicly released database contains just under 200 names, about 30 of which appear twice or even three times.

“We looked at the guidelines but at the end of the day, decisions are made by law,” said Le Roux. “In my opinion, we’ve sat down with the best experts. We’re making decisions and 90% of them are based on environmental reasons, for the least impact and to the benefit of everybody.”

Schroder said: “We’re aware of the guidelines, but have not taken them into account at this stage. We believe we can mine responsibly. We’re taking conscious decisions that are not necessarily cost-effective but that are the most environmentally safe.”

The company has now released its scoping report, and will submit its environmental management programme report on June 10.

This means these two phases were run almost concurrently, whereas the guidelines specifically recommend two distinct phases so stakeholders can ensure their concerns are addressed.

The guidelines remind us that stakeholders “contribute essential local knowledge and wisdom” and that these processes help to “clarify the degree to which they are willing to accept or live with the trade-offs”.

These guidelines are “soft law” and difficult to enforce, but proper consultations would help to demonstrate good faith – and give more credence to the company’s slogan of “Putting nature first”.

Source: Mail & Guardian


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Community tourism pays back – key to responsible tourism

Among key tourist areas in Africa set for discussion at the ongoing International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) Symposium in South Africa is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania, one of Africa’s tourist heritage.

Community benefits from tourism development has been crucial for sustainable projects that benefit nations in Africa and raising incomes to communities living in tourist attractive sites.

In Tanzania, the local Maasai population is the center for discussion in a series of articles and news stories published by various regional and international media outlets, aiming at bridging a peaceful relationship between these communities and tourist stakeholders.

The Maasai community in northern Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area had teamed up with wildlife conservationists to establish a council, charged to oversee daily activities of pastoralism and economic development in the area by sharing the tourist revenues.

The Pastoral Council is allocated funds by the conservation authority for social and economic development projects, focusing at education, health, livestock extension services and income generating projects including a community modern hostel to accommodate tourists visiting the local communities.

Other than revenue gains, the Pastoral Council is currently pushing for employment rights to the Maasai educated youths, said the Council’s Chairman Mr. Metui ole-Shaudo.

He said the Council would like to see more locals getting direct employment from tourist companies making business in the Conservation Area, with more involvement of those companies to attract employees from local communities.

Located some160 kilometers west of Tanzania’s northern tourist city of Arusha, Ngorongoro supports the greatest concentration of wildlife left on Earth. It is a multiple land-use system under which Maasai pastoralists share the resources with wildlife, one of the world’s earliest system to be established in order to reconcile human development and conservation.

The Conservation Area has been occupied by wildlife and the Maasai cattle herders, and have lived together side by side for many centuries. The Maasai are the only people that move freely in the area with their herds of cattle, undisturbed.

Ngorongoro is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Tanzania and as such it’s an important economic resource to local residents, safari and tour operators, hunting firms, the region, and the nation.

Source: ETurbo News


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