Climate Change and Environmental Crime in South Africa

© © Lynette Strauss

South Africa's department of environmental affairs has set aside R400 million for an "Eco-Towns" programme to be established in 10 municipalities in 2010. The project - Buyisela- is an initiative in partnership with Indalo Yethu and the department of water affairs. This initiative aims to create ten eco-towns modelled on sustainability as a legacy project, which will serve as a framework or blueprint for other towns to follow.

Buyisela means giving back or restoring, which in essence captures the thrust of cleaning and greening efforts which go beyond just lawns and trees, but also creates bio-recreational spaces for people to enjoy their neighbourhoods, whilst also protecting and enhancing the quality of the open spaces which could have been a breeding ground for criminal activities.

In her budget speech, minister BP Sonjica also promised the release of a National Climate Change Policy and White Paper, which should be concluded by the end of 2010.

The policy will build on a broad understanding of what can be done by all stakeholders - government, business, labour, civil society and individual citizens - to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change poses an enormous threat to economic growth, sustainable development and our ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS). By 2080, about 70 million people and up to 30% of Africa's coastal infrastructure could face the risk of coastal flooding because of sea level rise and an increase in storm intensity and frequency over the oceans.

Climate Change threatens Africa's food security with some parts of the continent expected to experience a reduction in agricultural yields of more than 50% by 2050. The oceans, covering 70% of the earth, plays an important role in the climate change debate, particularly the role it plays in providing moisture for rain.

The western parts of South Africa are projected to become drier, with some key agricultural sectors expected to be impacted quite severely, resulting in accelerated loss of biodiversity, particularly the Fynbos as well as chronic water shortages as we have seen in the past two seasons in the Southern Cape.

In addition, the north-eastern parts of the country are expected to get wetter with a highly energised climate, risks of flooding and damage to property from tornadoes. At the recent Climate Change talks in Copenhagen, South Africa committed to reduce its emission by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025, depending on the availability of financial and technical support. South Africa will host the Climate Change Conference of Parties at the end of 2011.

"More needs to be done to prepare our communities and arm them with information to demystify the climate change debate and secure their informed understanding of human activities that contribute to climate change. We will use our public participation engagements to spread the message of climate change."

Fighting Crime

South Africa has been under tremendous pressure in the past two years with the rising number of rhino horns being poached in public and private protected areas. The department is establishing an interim National Wildlife Reaction Unit specifically to complement the work of the Environmental Management Inspectors commonly referred to as the Green Scorpions.

"With a total of 4 661 environmental cases reported nationally from the 1st April 2008 to the 31st March 2009, we have a compelling case for the establishment of environmental courts," said Sonjica.

In agreement with the department of Justice, dedicated time slots for environmental crime cases will be re-introduced in Durban Regional Court in KwaZulu-Natal, Nelspruit Regional Court in Mpumalanga and the Hermanus District Court in the Western Cape.

"Our launch site will be the Johannesburg Regional Court in Gauteng on the 20th May 2010."

In May this year, South Africa will donate 32 black rhino, Diceros bicornis michaeli, to Tanzania. About 20 years ago, eight black rhinos were imported to Addo Elephant National Park from Tanzania.

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