Address at the International Biodiversity Workshop by Mr Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Riviera Hotel Velddrif
1 Feb 2011
Esteemed municipal councillors and officials
Stakeholders and officials joining us from across the country and province
Ladies and gentlemen
The Western Cape province is considered as one of the most biodiversity rich parts in the world. We are, and should be proud to be the responsible custodians of this natural and cultural heritage. I am aware that some of our ecosystems are at risk of becoming critically endangered. Therefore, it is imperative that we act to preserve these ecosystems to ensure that future generations benefit from the goods produced and services rendered by these natural systems.
Allow me to quote Charles Darwin, (pause) "It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
There is no doubt that the natural environment is succumbing to our economic activities as we foster rapid development to aid economic growth. The fact of the matter is that this progressive urge to fuel economic prosperity is leading to extensive environmental ruin, biodiversity loss, and agricultural decline. We are now, more than ever before, cognisant of the impeding impacts of climate change on our livelihoods.
The emerging debate over the last few decades about climate change has forced us to be more proactive in responding to this issue. The environment as we know it is changing and we are experiencing the evidence first hand, as extreme weather patterns force urgent interventions to address extreme floods and droughts. Most concerning, of course, is the fact that the vulnerable and indigent communities of our province will be impacted on the worst under the climate change projections.
In consideration of these changes - how do we foster sustainable development with due consideration not of the now, but of the future. I firmly believe that the role of local authorities is critical in supporting and driving the much needed action to advance biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
I applaud and appreciate the work already being implemented by the stakeholders that have ensured that conventions such as that on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention and the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites is advanced to motivate that more and more resources are allocated to protect areas such as the Cape Floral Kingdom.
During 2010, together with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, I announced strategic objective 7 as a plan of action to address the environmental concerns pertinent to the people of the Western Cape. This plan makes provision for a work group, under the leadership of CapeNature, to realise certain strategic biodiversity management outcomes.
In recognition of our environmental legislative framework as well as the fact that South Africa is signatory to various international conventions, such as those I have mentioned - I believe that through the successful implementation and management of this action plan we can address the very concerns that you as delegates have, and will raise over this meeting period.
Have we set ambitious provincial biodiversity management targets as an administration?
It is anticipated that CapeNature in collaboration with SANParks and the Table Mountain Fund will be submitting a formal nomination to the World Heritage Convention Committee (WHCC) to add several protected areas in the Western and Eastern Cape to the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, World Heritage Sites (CFRPA WHS). If this extension nomination is successful, the protected areas under the World Heritage Sites will double to 1.1 million hectares.
In November 2010 the Oudebosch project was launched in Kogelberg as an innovative "green" tourism development. This particular project paves and defines a new and changed approach to sustainability. As a means to improve the existing tourism product in the heart of the floral kingdom, developers took into account best "green practices" for sanitation and water services, as well as building for a fire-prone zone. Permanent foundations and heavy conventional structures were avoided to ensure that the design was integrated with all the biophysical, historical, economic and social aspects which surround the project.
I want to acknowledge the working for wetland alien clearing programme managed by CapeNature that is achieving remarkable results. The outputs of this programme increases the surface water flow and has shown to enhance the natural flow through the water system by removing unnatural flow impediments and invasive alien vegetation.
Ladies and gentlemen, these measurable projects bear testament to the commitment of this administration to address the urgency and need for biodiversity conservation. I am excited to lead a plan of action that will guide institutions to maintain the current 50 conservation stewardship sites and to increase these to 78 sites by 2012.
We have also committed resources to ensure that land infested with alien vegetation is rehabilitated through initial clearing of 40 000 hectares per annum. The ecosystems are annually under threat by the impacts of wild fires. We have identified an objective to reduce the number of wild fires and focus on ensuring that fires are planned and controlled.
Ladies and gentlemen, delegates - your contribution and work is vital. It is not that nothing is being done, and that the concern of environmental ruin is not noticed. It is clear that there is a commitment to preserve our natural environment for future generations. Legislation despite being administered effectively, alone, cannot preserve the state of the environment. The challenge is to cultivate a sense of responsibility from all citizens.
The provincial administration implementing a plan of action requires urgent and immediate cooperative support from all stakeholders. The local action for biodiversity workshop is the platform to engage with each other. Let us make collaborative commitments that clarify how best to respond to the changes in the environment. These responses must be administered through results driven interventions to save our natural environment.
Source: Western Cape Provincial Government
Issued by: Western Cape Environmental Affairs and Development Planning
1 Feb 2011
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