SONA did not adequately address key environmental matters | WWF South Africa

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SONA did not adequately address key environmental matters

WWF South Africa welcomes President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the importance placed on social infrastructure. As a conservation organisation which understands the socio-economic needs of the country and its people, we will continue to explore ways in which to support or strengthen government efforts in this regard.

WWF congratulates government on the establishment of its R800 million Green Fund and investments made in green economy projects for municipalities, other organs of state, community organisations and the private sector across all provinces. However, we caution that key environmental matters were not addressed. What is even more worrying is that these very issues will have a profound effect on the future health of our economy and well-being of our people.

In this regard, we continue to have concerns about fracking going ahead since the lifting of the moratorium on fracking in the Karoo. WWF is concerned that government’s capacity and willingness to implement and monitor stringent environmental standards is doubtful given the poor record in the mining sector. We encourage government to explore other cleaner energy options for our energy challenges than fracking.

WWF recognises the mention of the roll-out of renewable energy projects. This is a very important part of the green economy and the green accord, but for renewables to have lasting and beneficial impacts on our economy we have to have a much longer term horizon for the development of the renewable sector in the country. South Africa needs to move away from its minerals intensive economy to other sources of growth and WWF’s main interest is in expansion of the green economy.

We note the mention of the development of two new dams, but demand to see how the catchments that will supply these dams will be managed. This was not outlined in last night’s speech and highlights South Africa’s continued water challenges. Thus, in our obsession with engineering infrastructure, we appear to ignore our ‘ecological’ infrastructure.

Furthermore, WWF would like to see greater leadership on how the impacts of coal mining on water will be minimised after Mining Minister Susan Shabangu recently proposed that coal be declared a ‘strategic resource’. A recent analysis by WWF indicates that only eight per cent of South Africa’s land surface generates 50% of our rainfall run-off; much of this right on top of abundant coal resources. We had therefore hoped that the President will explicitly deal with the conflict between water and coal in our National Planning Commission and the new National Water Resource Strategy.

Lastly, given the general public outcry over the rate at which our rhino are being poached, WWF-SA would like to have heard more from the President in this regard. This is a critical issue with broader impacts on both the national economy and security. We are surprised that Mozambique was not mentioned as a transit country of priority for rhino horn. More than two-thirds of our poached rhino horn are exported through Mozambique. It is critical that our President takes this matter up with his Mozambican counterpart.
WWF would like to see greater leadership on how the impacts of coal mining on the environment will be minimised.

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