Environment report highlights Western Cape’s green challenges

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Rapid urbanisation, climate change and businesses are impacting negatively on the Western Cape environment, said officials this week in a public report highlighting these challenges.

The department’s State of the Environment Outlook Report lists various challenges that need to be addressed in the province. It was released on Wednesday.

Department head Piet van Zyl said he was “disappointed that we have so many declining indicators”.

“It’s a wake up call to work harder. If we look at the decline (of progress) in climate change, oceans and coast, and water, we should look at collective behaviour change,” said Van Zyl.

Karen Shippey, the department’s sustainability director, outlined during yesterday’s presentation a number of challenges that need to be addressed.

Businesses and individuals needed to play a role in turning the tide on environmental deterioration, said Shippey.

“We need to change the way we do business. We cannot continue these trends without protecting our natural resources. Businesses are over-fishing and there is too much illegal dumping,” she said.

“We know where the problems are. We need to respond to that.”

Shippey said the provincial government and business was working on a green economy framework that “will focus on job creation, urban settlement and infrastructure”.

Locals needed to monitor their waste management as too much everyday trash still ended up in landfills. Shippey said “waste diversion stood at only 14%”, meaning that the rest was not recycled or re-used in any way.

Providing energy in the province was still heavily reliant on coal-based electricity production, with little renewable energy supply.

“We are still hooked on our coal-based energy grid. Vast numbers of people are also still using coal, paraffin or burning wood for energy. The outlook is stable to declining. The energy demand is increasing and our economy is growing 3%. We need to rethink our energy provision,” said Shippey.

She added: “The air where our electricity is generated is also a concern. Our carbon footprint is undesirable.”

The Western Cape’s population growth by 28,7% from 1996 to 2011 led some to build informal settlements on ecological hotspots. The population increased by 95,600 in the province that constitutes 11% of the country’s population.

“We have people moving onto wetlands and coastal areas. People are clashing with the natural environment. They are moving into ecologically sensitive areas,” said Shippey.

The environmental report is available for public input on the department’s website. A final version would be issued by end September.

Van Zyl said it would serve as a reference to policy-makers, businesses and the public on the state of the provincial environment and trends therein.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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  1. Participate in State of the Environment Report - January 23, 2014

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