Keynote address delivered by the Honourable Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi, on the occasion of the opening of the sixth Annual Air Quality Governance Lekgotla at the Premier Hotel Regent, East London
10 Oct 2011
MEC for Economic Development and Environmental Affairs, Mr Mcebisi Jonas
Buffalo City Metropolitan Executive Mayor, Ms Zukiswa Ncitha
Senior government officials
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me start by conveying my fraternal greetings to all the stakeholders of the Air Quality Lekgotla.
It is just over a year since the Air Quality Act came into full effect, with the movement of the Atmospheric Emission Licensing function from the National Department to provinces, metropolitan, district, and local municipalities. This has provided the local government with regulatory tools to apply in protecting the people’s constitutional right to air that is not harmful to their health and well-being.
Local authorities have taken up the challenge and are providing services to their communities. It is a pleasure to know that at local level, air quality interventions are taking place and the local authorities are driving objectives-oriented approaches to air quality governance and are making decisions that are in the best interest of communities within their jurisdictions.
Hence the theme for the 2011 Air Quality Governance Lekgotla is “Local authorities are taking the lead.”
I understand that some local authorities have taken initiatives to install monitoring stations in their areas. I would like to applaud those municipalities for their great work. However, the stations should be well maintained and operated so that the information obtained is accurate and can be used to measure progress regarding cleaning up the air.
The same stations should report their ambient air quality monitoring data to the South African Air Quality Information System in order to understand the state of air more comprehensively in the country. The monitoring results will be accessible on the South African Air Quality Information System website whereby all citizens of the country can see the status of air in areas where they live.
Further discussion on the South African Air Quality Information System phase II project will be taking place at the Multi-stakeholder workshop on Wednesday. It is an important project as it will provide us with valuable information to use in advancing air quality management goals.
It has also come to my attention that very few municipalities, especially the local municipalities, have developed their Air Quality Management Plans (AQMPs). I therefore, would like to encourage every sphere of government to develop the Air Quality Management Plans as required by section 15 of the Air Quality Act.
This will ensure that local government focuses its resources, as their AQMPs must outline ways and means in which each sphere of government will be addressing air quality issues within its jurisdiction. Further, discussions on the AQMPs will also take place on during the workshop.
I understand that there are still challenges faced by the air quality management officials, in performing some of their functions. That is why the department will continue to provide all with the necessary support and tools needed to deliver excellent services.
To this end, the department in collaboration with the National Association for Clean Air (NACA) will provide necessary air quality management training to air quality officials.
We also need to understand that it is still early days to start seeing the fruits of our work in most cases, for example, in the National Priority Areas but I believe that if this group focuses their efforts and work together we will continue to deliver positive air quality governance results.
Hence, this Annual Air Quality Governance Lekgotla is itself an important event as it is a forum where the nation’s air quality governance team come together to address challenges and plan.
In some few weeks to come, South Africa will be hosting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 17 in Durban. Climate change has become a buzzword across our country and globally, but we need to understand exactly what it is. In short, it is the increase in temperature caused by the release of certain gasses into the air from the burning of fossil fuels like coal for our electricity, oil for our transport (including petrol and diesel), industrial pollution, waste burning, farming, and many other human activities.
Science tells us that climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of our time. Climate change is a fact, and delaying climate action will hit poor communities hardest.
Let all stakeholders (industries, private sector, NGOs, communities, etc) work together with the three spheres of government to ensure drastic reduction of greenhouse gases – working together to save tomorrow, today.
With these few words, I would like to formally open this sixth Annual Air Quality Governance Lekgotla and I wish you fruitful and productive discussions.
I thank you
Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
10 Oct 2011
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