Water for Growth & Development Framework & National Framework for Sustainable Development for South Africa

Water and Sanitation

18 August 2009
Chairperson: Ms M Sotyu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Water Affairs sector of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs made the first presentation to the Portfolio Committee regarding its Water for Growth and Development Framework. Key points included the centrality of water to all South African sectors and the necessity of taking a cross-sector approach to ensuring water security and balancing water interests, the Department's vision for diversifying South Africa's water mix and intervention measures, the imperative of improving monitoring and compliance mechanisms, and the proposed structure of the Department's programme.

The Committee was unanimous in its frustration on the lack of progress being made. Members asked that the Department expand upon its plans to address the lack of access to quality water in the rural areas, how it would intervene to assist those who were dependent on river water. They queried how municipalities controlled water loss and excessive domestic consumption, asked if there were water inspectors, what penalties were in place for excessive consumption and raised the issue of monitoring. One Member noted that spot-fines could be levied for traffic offences and said that the same should apply to water, and further commented that since there were already national water regulations covering municipalities, it should be easy to track the reports and ensure that water was placed at the centre of government planning. Members complained that they were weary of constant excuses about skills shortages and capacity, and were never presented with clear plans of action to alleviate these. Members alluded to the Department holding “talk-shops” rather than working and attending to active timeframes for delivery and implementation. Lack of implementation was raised several times as an issue, including lack of market-based mechanisms and incentives to deter industrial pollution, and lack of movement in relation to recycling programmes. One Member criticised the water use and misuse by mines, noting that many applications for mining rights were being granted while the Department delayed. Other questions related to why the water affairs and environmental affairs sectors were being separated, what influence they had, and the need to assist in all areas. Lack of cooperative governance was highlighted as a major concern, as was the Department’s failure to do reliable and regular maintenance on its existing infrastructure. The Department was specifically brought to task for loose informational networks, poor regulation and legislation to identify specific problems and catalyse implementation, and the chronic lack of access to basic-quality water in the rural areas.

The officials from the Environmental Affairs section of the Department then commenced with their presentation on the progress of the National Framework for Sustainable Development. The meaning of sustainable development and the Department's mandate to pursue it were briefly reviewed, followed by a briefing on the background and development of the Framework and its progress to date. Timeframes were given for the finalisation of planning phase of the framework, and the Department committed itself to being ready for implementation by May 2010. Issues raised by Members included questioning of the Department's intersectoral agenda. The Committee unanimously expressed its approval of the quality of the presentation and the commitment to a deadline for implementation of the Framework, stating that they would hold the Department to this. Members also discussed and reacted favourably to proposals that perhaps a Select Committee was needed to lend oversight over implementation.

Meeting report

Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (DWEA): Presentations
Water for Growth and Development Framework
Dr Sizwe Mkhize, Deputy Director-General: Water Affairs, DWEA, began by noting the centrality of water to any aspirations for social and economic development. He noted that the presentation on the Water for Growth and Development Framework was developed partially to respond to questions previously put to the Department by Members, as well as to provide sufficient background knowledge of the current state of water resources in South Africa, to encourage understanding and appreciation of the Department’s vision.

Background and Overview of the Water for Growth and Development Framework
Mr Harrison Pienaar, Chief Director: Resource Directed Measures, DWEA, gave a brief overview of the points to be covered by the presentation. These included a background to the challenges of water resource management for growth and development, and an overview of the strategic framework, how it sought to address these obstacles, the main concerns of stakeholders raised in workshops, timeframes for implementation, and an explanation of the 'tailor-made' approach the Department sought to employ.

He noted firstly that South Africa did not have vast water resources, and was globally listed as the world's 30th-driest country. This scarcity, coupled with the centrality of water to social, economic, and environmental issues, compelled water issues to be given utmost priority. Furthermore, competent planning would be required to balance the clear obligations prescribed by the Constitution with the constraints of limited supply.

He said that water was critical to all sectors, and while many perceived it as simply an enabler, it would be more appropriate to understand it as a catalyst, particularly in the context of development planning exercises. Certain sectors were cited as having particularly critical water needs and crucial roles to play in water management. These sectors were specifically, agriculture, mining, energy, and the domestic sector l.

He said it was important to revisit old and chronic water problems in the country, and that the Water for Growth and Development Framework (WfGDF) would play an important role in addressing these unresolved issues. He cited inter-basin transfers, where water was transferred from one area to another, as an example of an overtly costly exercise which was being critically reassessed. Other areas of importance to the Department included the expansion of water infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, and ensuring renewed vigour in the enforcement of compliance to legislated consumption standards.

He said while it was important to foster economic growth and development, the price of ignoring the impact of on water quality and production would rise if not immediately addressed at a strategic level. On the point of allocation, a licence system was in place, though in some places water supply was being exploited illegally, excluding small scale use where a licence was not required.

In regard to capacity, a key question was how the Department could be working smarter, and what institutional arrangement would optimise efficiency so that lack of capacity was not used as an excuse.

On the impact of climate change, he noted that with the merging of the sectors of Environmental Affairs and Water the new Department (DWEA) was particularly cognisant of the challenges placed by climate change on water security. It was currently in the process of developing a water sector response strategy to climate change and scenario planning exercises which incorporated the uncertainty around climate change and projections of South Africa's water needs. Furthermore, while climate change as a concept was not altogether new to South Africa, as it had been plagued by periods of drought, it did present an opportunity for proactive preparation to new climate challenges, which the WfGDF addressed.

He said that the current economic recession was having an impact on water management and planning, emphasised the importance of cost-benefit analysis, and again citied inter-basin transfers as requiring such a reassessment.

He further noted that the Department must take into account rapid demographic changes if it was to adequately plan to address the needs of a wider base citizenry, particularly in terms of improving and expanding infrastructure.

He said improving the quality of water in the country was an ongoing struggle, and it was necessary to develop an institutional model capable of intelligently addressing the problem of deteriorating water resources.

Turning to the question of water availability he said that current national water usage matched water availability. Furthermore, current projections for 2025 indicated that there was potential for further resource development in southern KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern side of the Eastern Cape, but was generally limited nationally.

In relation to proportional sectoral water use, agriculture by far accounted for the most water consumed (62%), although domestic consumption was also significant at 27%. He posed the question of whether agriculture's consumption of water was appropriate, considering its share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and national exports, although he would not derogate from its national importance.

Also highlighted was the importance of engaging constructively with local government and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in implementation of the WfGDF in the domestic sector.

Although mining (2.5%) did not, proportionally, consume much, it had a great influence in terms of impact and pollution. Industry (3.5%) power generation (2%) and afforestation (3.0%) were also noted as playing significant roles in strategic partnerships, and the importance of maintaining an environmental base for water production highlighted.

He then continued to give an overview of the WfGDF framework and how it would achieve the Department's main long-term objective of achieving water security, in terms of both quality and quantity, by 2030.

Firstly, he noted that WfGDF established principles for sound, informed and calculated high-level decision-making and a close working relationship with the National Planning Commission. These principles included: working to provide basic access to water for all South African citizens as non-negotiable, balancing social, economic and environmental needs, and utilising sound cost-benefit analyses in this process.

Secondly it established a means to bridge gaps that affected decision making. He said the Department had introduced Reconciliation Strategies which examined nation-wide resource planning into the future, feasibility studies to investigate the most cost-effective ways to implement the Department's objectives, and sought to strengthen informational networks for effective planning, for example, by establishing a National Groundwater Information System.

He then highlighted new cross-linkages with other programmes, distinguishing the WfGDF from how government had operated in the past, and how the National Water Act would be implemented. The Framework provided strategic intent and direction for the centre as a whole for the next thirty years and beyond, taking into account all sectors, as opposed to focusing exclusively on the water availability within the sector. The next layer comprised the National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS), which looked to how the National Water Act would be implemented, taking into account the resource base and service provision under the Water Services Strategic Framework. The purpose of the WfGDF was thus to ensure coherence across the water value chain.

He also noted that the NWRS would now be revised into a more realistic and concise second edition, fitting within the WfGDF. However, though the National Water Act required a review of strategy every five years, the delay in publishing the second edition would prevent a prompt submission.

After the NWRS was published, the final layer of the WfGDF, the Catchment Management Strategy (CMS) would need to be finalised. Currently the country was divided into 19 water management areas, but an appropriate institutional management arrangement had not yet been finalised. and catchment management agencies had not yet been established. In the interim, Internal Strategy Perspectives were fulfilling the mandate of the CMS, and would inform what the most efficient institutional form for the current capacity would take.

He highlighted the importance of cross-sector linkages and the coherence in communication, policy and implementation that would be afforded by the WfGDF. He also warned against climate change over-riding other critical concerns for the country and continent.

Within the WfGDF, he noted a series of high level, cross-cutting and sector specific recommendations. The most important high-level recommendation was that, as noted earlier, the centrality of water to all other sectors must be recognized, and that it be placed as a fundamental priority across government. This would necessitate a strengthening of sectoral cooperation and the regulatory capacity of the DWA.

Secondly, institutional capacity needed to be strengthened to prevent the exacerbation of water scarcity by mismanagement. This, as previously noted, would require a restructuring and realignment of the current institutional arrangement.

Thirdly, a balance between supply and demand side measures would need to be found. Although the Department had instituted some mechanisms such as the Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WCWDM) initiative, which had given a greater return on investment, more municipal technical support would be necessary to ensure wholescale adoption.

Fourthly, there needed to be a critical assessment of service backlogs, seeing why they occurred and a comprehensive strategy must be developed to address the situation.

Fifthly, the right mix of mechanisms must be developed to affect change in patterns of consumption. While punitive measures were important and must be applied more rigorously, other mechanisms, be they self-regulatory, market-based or educational, must also be applied.

He then went on to note that intervention must also take the form of diversifying the nation's water supply to shift its reliance from surface water to other sources such as groundwater, return flows, and desalination. Using Cape Town as an example, he noted that groundwater from Table Mountain should be used to supplement the water intake of the metro.

Conservatively, the Department had projected that reliance on surface water could be reduced by intervention from 77% in 2008, to 72% in 2025, and to 65% by 2040. He added that the Department would like to invite sector partners for input as to how to improve efficient water production and distribution.

He noted that groundwater was an under exploited resource which could be utilised, particularly in the introduction of small scale infrastructure to address service backlogs.

Better management of return flow along the principles of reduce, recycle and reuse also showed potential to bolster supply, particularly in the irrigation and mining sector.

Commissions of cost-benefit analyses also need to be made in some areas where desalination might be an option. Although conservatively desalination might only account for 7% of the water mix by 2040, international developments and improvements in technology might realistically increase this figure.

He noted that the potential savings to be made from diversifying the nation's intervention measures would be great. He noted that inter-basin transfers were both the most common form of intervention measure in the country, but that they also had the highest average incremental cost. Other methods, such as desalination, effluent reuse in mining and agriculture, augmentation of local resources, water use efficiency, and water loss controls, all carried significantly lower incremental costs, and should be explored.

He then noted the WfGDF's cross-cutting recommendations, to be applied across sectors. High on the list was the recommendation for the aggressive implementation of the WCWDM, and the proposal that it be non-negotiable, based on sector-specific targets, and regulated through economic instruments.

He then recommended that water loss control instruments be enforced across all municipalities and that conditional target limits be set across sectors, although these would not be so high as to impede economic development. He proposed that it was preferable that sector agents should come on-board and submit their own recommendations for how to reduce water loss.

Of prime concern was also the improvement of infrastructure. Proposals for new structures included the creation of an Inter-Basin Water Transfer system and the construction of more multipurpose dams. However, it was also critical that distribution be strategically prioritised according to development needs, that maintenance of existing infrastructure be improved, and that ageing infrastructure be refurbished.

Water quality and management of pollution was also noted as a concern. There was a need for a water resource classification system to be established, according to social, economic and environmental needs, to ensure a more efficient distribution. Moreover, adherence to licensed waste discharge standards and conditions must be monitored more thoroughly.

Finally, he noted that it was important that the sector develop mitigation and adaptation plans in order to confront climate change. The Department was involved in examining potential scenario plans from a water perspective, as well as engaging with the environmental affairs sector.

Moving to sector-specific recommendations, he noted that these would be integral to the WfGDF's tailor made approach, though some of the proposals would not be new. In respect of energy, it was suggested that there be an up-scaling of and investment in technology to promote water use efficiency.

In respect of mining it was essential that stronger regulation be effected, particularly in regard to reducing pollution and treating effluent and groundwater.

In the domestic sector, the reconciliation strategies must be rolled out comprehensively, as well as the feasibility studies being conducted for the use of desalinated water and treated effluent. Additionally, the potential of rainwater harvesting should also be explored.

Irrigated agriculture must have irrigation schedules enforced, and the use of technology for more efficient water use should also be incentivised. Furthermore, cascading water tariffs should be introduced and illegal water use halted immediately.

It was also noted that the ecological basis of water production must not be compromised. To this end there should be resource-directed measures examining a concert of ecological reserves, to which stakeholders must apply for access, through natural resource management programmes. The Department had enjoyed some notable successes in this regard, such as the internationally acclaimed Working for Water programme.

He also noted that within the sphere of Forestry, afforestation should be restricted to relatively under-utilised wet catchments.

He then turned to a review of the WfGDF's process to date. The development of the WfGDF had been based largely on a series of consultations with various stakeholders. Initially, consultation within government saw the establishment of a reference group of key sector departments, as well as with members of Water Sector leadership, though currently there was a need to draw a larger portion of the Sector into discussion.

Last year a panel of international experts convened to give input and critique of the WfGDF, based on similar experiences from Mexico, Namibia, Israel and Gambia. Moreover, work was commissioned on intervention measures employed by India, Morocco, Mynamar, Germany, Australia, Uganda, Brazil, and Mexico, in an effort to encourage synergetic relationships and benefit from a broad range of international knowledge.

In January 2009 the WfGDF was approved for further consultation by Cabinet, and in March the WfGDF was launched as part of National Water Week Celebrations, where more stakeholders were invited for further consultation at the end of the month. Further provincial consultations had been proposed for September or October this year, with a revised Framework due for November in preparation for a report to Cabinet in December.

He then went on to highlight key issues arising from the March consultations. These included strengthening institutional capacity within the sector, overcoming the challenge of cooperative governance, raising the question of how to achieve integrated planning and coordinated implementation, issues of quality pollution, problems such as discharges and oil spillages, the question of how to bring the informal sector into discussion, setting of targets for each sector, and the implications of resource constraints.

He then turned to strategic actions to be taken as a result of these consultations, highlighting the imperative of garnering political support for approval of the WfGDF and its placement as a priority for the National Planning Commission, the launching of educational campaigns, the introduction of Blue Drop and Green Drop initiatives, as well as incentives to encourage responsible water consumption and management.

He further explained that the purpose of provincial consultations was to strengthen sector perspectives within the WfGDF in terms of recommendations and interventions, to discuss and agree on solutions and joint action, and ensure responsive action to meet practical sector targets.

He said that the Department, in moving to the future, would be making a tailor made sectoral approach so that the WfGDF was part of the agenda of existing initiatives, rather than simply embarking on high-level consultations.

He noted that most provincial concerns in terms of water and strategic economic sectors had to do with agriculture, and suggested that perhaps South Africa was moving from a mining to an agricultural economy. He also noted that costs remained an important issue and that although the Department would be in consultation with the National Treasury, it was anticipated that about R3.5 million would be necessary for effective roll out.

The Department was currently engaging in high-level discussions with all Departmental Deputy Director Generals, to encourage them to take the lead in adopting a water focus. Ministerial Provincial Water Summits were due to convene in September, with a focus on WfGDF.

He concluded by putting an emphasis on the tailor made approach, and the centrality of joint decision making across sectors and departments in order to set and achieve realistic goals.


Ms C Zikalala (IFP) noted that she had been born in a rural area. She asked that the Department expand upon its plans to address the lack of access to quality water in the rural areas.

Ms Zikalala asked, in the context of uncertainty around climate change and fears of drought, how the Department planned to intervene on behalf of citizens dependant on river water.

Ms Zikalala further inquired as to what exactly was meant by 'ground water'.

Ms Zikalala finally queried how municipalities controlled water loss and excessive domestic water consumption.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) asked what action was being taken about skill shortages and capacity. She bemoaned the frequent references to skills shortages that were presented by Departments, yet their failure to present any clear plan of action to alleviate the situation.

Ms Ndude further noted that while she was pleased to know that timeframes were being set, she remained concerned that the Department had set targets for little more than talk-shops, rather than for delivery and implementation. She requested that during the next meeting, the Department must present timeframes for implementation, and some means of measurement to track progress.

Ms Ndude then asked whether there were any water inspectors, what penalties existed for excessive water consumers, and how this was monitored. She expressed particular concerns about municipal strategies of collective taxation to cover-costs made by individual transgressions.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) noted her alarm and distress at the presentation. She bemoaned the lack of any progress in the DWEA's current discourse from 1997 to date. She expressed her amazement that consultation and Cabinet approval was still required for logical and obvious ideas that should have been in implementation years ago.

Ms Lovemore then turned to the problem of regulation, compliance and enforcement, in a context where water was in crisis and where problems with access to quality water were a known cause of fatalities. She noted that transgressions of the speed limit could result in immediate and non-negotiable fines for endangering the public, and questioned why the same rigour was not applied to water transgressions. She questioned why negotiations around this issue had taken so long, and why the people responsible for administering penalties, the Blue Scorpions, remained untrained.

Ms Lovemore  noted that in regard to the issue of decreasing water quality, there were already national water regulations requiring every municipality and water service authority to compile a water service delivery plan. This must cover how much water was available, how much was needed and how it was to be distributed and administered. Copies were to be submitted to the DWEA or the Minister. She queried what became of these reports, and how could they be accessed to ensure that water was at the centre of government planning.

Ms Lovemore further noted that the WfGDF was not dated, and requested its date of publishing.

Ms Lovemore also lamented the lack of actual implementation of market-based mechanisms and incentive-based strategies to deter industrial pollution.

Ms Lovemore further noted that within her constituency a number of small towns faced water shortages, including Alexandria, in which a pilot project had been launched to produce potable water from effluent, which aimed to return the water back into Alexandria's water system within three months. When the WfGDF spoke of “recycling” this was indirect potable reuse - specifically that water could be treated to an extremely high quality and then returned to a river, surface or groundwater supply for eventual re-extraction. However engineers on site said that the DWEA had expressed reservations about allowing their potable water to be put directly into the potable water supply of Alexandria. If this programme worked, it could be rolled out across South Africa and could contribute to diversifying South Africa's water mix. She asked why there were reservations, and what was going to be done to facilitate projects such as this.

Mr G Morgan (DA) said that this was the fourteenth, and the most frustrating, meeting of this Committee that he had attended. He criticised the presentation and WfGDF as being little more than a “literature review”.

He too criticised the sluggishness of implementation and monitoring. He cited the issue of mining rights by way of example. Many hundred applications for mining rights would be granted or denied at least within the next two years. All of them had water implications, because they required water rights, although it was known that many operated without them. At the same time that the Department was in perpetual delay, water rights were being granted outside of any system that would balance use against competing interests, such as agriculture, or against water security.

Mr Morgan also expressed concern about how the divergent levels of political power and influence of different sectors would likely determine water distribution, and he cast doubt on the sufficiency of the Department's political clout to successfully balance water allocation on a basis of merit and need. He said that the great economic power of the mining sector would likely trump the needs of the much more economically-vulnerable agricultural sector.

He then questioned the logic of segregating the respective documents of the water affairs and environmental affairs sectors. He further questioned the whether the political clout of either department was sufficient to influence the National Planning Commission, where effective planning power resided.

On the issue of acid mine drainage, Mr Morgan noted that Gauteng basin was due for an imminent decant which would affect the structural integrity of Johannesburg. Many mines were refusing to clean the waste they created. He asked whether the Department could put more effort into supporting the Western Utilities Corporation, who desired to treat acid mine drainage to sell to Rand Water as a technological market-based solution to the problem. He asked whether there was an over-arching body taking immediate responsibility in bringing engineering and venture capitalists to address the issue.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) requested that when the Department noted serious skill shortages, it should present a skills audit report so that skills development could be tracked.

Mr Skosana then noted the problem of damaged infrastructure water meters, and requested that before the Department tried to expand water infrastructure, it must first regularly and reliably maintain and repair infrastructure which already was in existence.

Mr Skosana asserted that the Department had done too little to assist the rural areas, and said that this was undermining food security and social and economic development in these areas.

Mr Z Luyenge (ANC) noted his agreement with the points made by Mr Morgan and Ms Ndude.

Mr Luyenge further noted that the centrality of water meant that the Department must displaying strong and capable leadership, to assure South Africa's water security.

Mr Luyenge then noted his concern about the effect of the lack of co-operative governance on the provision of water. He highlighted the problem of municipalities who had to date not been quipped to tackle water problems, particularly in the rural areas, and the lack of any substantial progress.

Mr B Holomisa (UDM) criticised the presentation for being little more than a cut-and-paste job, and wondered why, despite the alleged progress in extending water infrastructure to the poor over many years, so many households still did not have access to water.

Mr Holomisa then suggested a review of the civil service. He criticised the sector for relying too heavily on the work of consultancies, which both undermined the amalgamation of institutional and corporate knowledge, and squandered critical funds. Instead of commissioning endless reports and wasting funds on consultants, he suggested that there should rather be a return to the notion of a career civil service and a departmental focus on implementation.

Mr Holomisa then proposed that the Minister and Director General of Water Affairs should appear before the Committee to account.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) asked how the disadvantaged and rural poor were being targeted by the Department.

The Chairperson expressed concern over loose informational networks, poor regulation and legislation to identify specific problems and catalyse implementation, and the chronic lack of access to basic-quality water in the rural areas. She echoed the exasperation of other Members over slow implementation.

Ms Nobulele Ngele, Acting Director-General, DWEA, responded firstly to the issues of poor capacity and challenges of implementation, noting that these were broad criticisms, which must be focused for the Department to adequately respond. She noted that this was not the first time such criticisms had been levelled against the Department. She also noted that it was important to rethink the interface and point of convergence between the water affairs and environmental affairs, and reflect on how both would relate to the National Planning Commission.

Ms Ngele noted that in respect of compliance and monitoring, the Ministry was exploring the possibility of creating a single body to monitor water and environmental issues. She added that the key players in the Department's programmes would be municipal actors.

Dr Mkhize added that he hoped that, after local councillors were informed of established user limits, regular reporting would be forthcoming.

Dr Mkhize referred to the criticism levelled against his paper, and said that the comment that it seemed to be a “cut and paste” effort was due largely to the very elaborate nature of the National Water Act, which made it difficult to give a concise and comprehensive presentation. He noted that while the Act was necessary, it had little meaning outside a cohesive plan for implementation, and this was a gap to be filled by the WfGDF.

He noted that the purpose of the cross-cutting nature of the WfDGF was to strive for coherence across government, including the mining sector.

He agreed that the lack of extension of water services was frustrating, but said that the Department was taking the issue seriously.

He further noted that the Director Generals of both the Department of Mining and DWEA were in the process of responding to the proposals of the WfGDF.

Mr Pienaar said, in respect of departmental power differences, that the Government was unified, though it did have many contesting responsibilities. There was much work going on behind the scenes. He noted that the Department was not merely holding “talk-shops”, and that perhaps its workshops and other activities were not adequately represented in the presentation.

Mr Pienaar noted that while implementation remained an admitted problem, one purpose of the WfDGF was to openly re-examine where and why implementation had stalled.

Mr Pienaar noted that the Department was putting a lot of effort into changing behaviour across departments and balancing everybody's water interests. He also said that the Department was looking to multi-skill monitors across sectors, and the challenge now was to ensure coherent interfacing.

Mr Pienaar said that the sector targets being set were an important aspect of implementation, and that although the WfGDF was not a completely new approach, it was a way of doing things better.

The Chairperson said that she remained concerned about the pace of work being done, but thanked the delegation for its honesty.

Background and Overview of the National Framework for Sustainable Development
Ms Dorah Nteo, Chief Director: Planning, Coordination and Information Management, Environmental Affairs, DWEA, gave a brief background of the work done over the past eight years to date.

She said the mandate for the National Framework for Sustainable Development (NFSD) emanated fundamentally from Section 24(b) of the Constitution, which obliged the State to “secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development”. In addition, the World Summit on Sustainable Development urged States to “take steps to make progress in the formulation and elaboration of national strategies for sustainable development”.

She then gave some background on the concept of sustainable development. At the United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, it was agreed that development and the environment could be managed in a mutually beneficial way. The 1992 UN Summit on Environment and Development saw the establishment of Agenda 21, a clear programme of action for the implementation of sustainable development, and the convening of Rio Conventions. The Millennium Summit and World Summit in Johannesburg in 2000 and 2002 saw the prescription of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in line with Agenda 21, and the elaboration of a framework to meet targets for sustainable development. In 2003 the (the named) Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism began to formulate the National Framework for Sustainable Development, not as a master plan or extensive strategy, but by way of a  plan on how to build and extend existing programmes and work towards a common vision.

She said that the NFSD was comprised of three main spheres of operation: ecosystem services, socio-political factors, and economic factors, all which were mutually embedded and underpinned by governance issues.

She noted that in developing this document, the Department engaged in a series of exercises – what had been referred to earlier as a “literature review” – to track long term (thirty-year) trends to underpin scenario planning. After priority areas were identified a series of engagements with various stakeholders occurred, from 2004 to 2007. The document at that time was not yet a full strategy framework, but was still focused on exploring what issues were to be addressed in order to develop a common vision.

She said that out of this process emerged five key priority areas. These included enhancing systems for integrated planning and implementation, sustaining the ecosystem and using resources sustainably, investing in sustainable infrastructure for economic development, creating sustainable human settlements, and appropriately responding to emerging human, economic, developmental, and environmental challenges.

Similar to the WfGDF, the meeting of these priorities would require the NFSD to compel an inherently intersectoral programme, and there had been significant positive feedback from other departments and sectors, which were developing their own sector specific frameworks.

She said the NFSD had three key phases. The first, developing the framework itself, was completed. The second phase involved preparing for implementation and the third was actual execution. The Department, which was currently in the second phase, would be finalising sector-specific plans, together with business, in line with the Government Plan of Action, within the next five years. These plans would moreover build on existing processes including climate change policy, the Global Change Science Plan, review of the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the Human Capital Development Plan.

Ms Nteo noted that while sustainable development was principally concerned with minimising intergenerational transfer of risk and cost, certain challenges presented themselves. Firstly, there was a simple lack of revenue for implementation. Secondly, there were weak linkages between the sustainable development strategy and national budget allocation, although there had been some engagement with the National Treasury to explore the concept of a “green budget” and what mechanisms might be appropriate top support this notion. Thirdly, the Department was attempting to build a economic case for sustainable development, including elaboration on the concept of green jobs and what a green economy would mean, in a South African context.

On the subject of establishing an appropriate institutional framework, there were challenges in explaining how the government would pursue and enforce implementation. Environmental Affairs was cross-cutting, and if the Department had already managed to lead the implementation climate change adaptation programmes, it should likewise be able to do so with sustainable development.

She said the Department needed to explore the pros and cons of either building a new institutional framework or enhancing existing structures to guide development. A series of options was being investigated, in consultation with the British government. One option advocated a model for creating an independent Sustainable Development Commission located within the Presidency, to monitor and evaluate progress across sectors. Another option promoted monitoring and evaluation being administered by the Department itself through the cluster system, or being based in another department.

In respect of monitoring and evaluation, Ms Nteo noted that the Department would need to develop sustainable development indicators to track progress. It hoped to have these integrated into the government's monitoring and evaluation system, and was currently engaging  on this issue with Statistics South Africa. There were currently 19 indicators, which could be broadly put into five categories. These were the state of environmental systems, stress on environmental systems, human vulnerability, social and institutional capacity, and global stewardship.

She then summarised the next immediate steps that the Department would be taking. A review of the NFSD and one multi-stakeholder session would be finalised in October. A Memorandum of Understanding between Statistics South Africa and the Department should be completed by March 2010, and this would include the aforementioned proposed indicators. Appropriate institutional arrangements and coordination mechanisms for sustainable development would commence in September, and be completed by April 2010. May 2010 would mark the point at which South Africa would be ready to implement its Strategy for Sustainable Development.

Mr G Morgan expressed his satisfaction with the presentation, particularly as he had taken a personal interest in the issue for some time.

He then noted that appropriate deadlines had been made. The Committee would hold the Department to account on these. Sustainable Development was a priority that cut across several institutions, and there was a possibility, if not a definite requirement, that a Committee must have general oversight over the programme and relevant ministries and departments, perhaps through the creation of a Select Committee.

Ms Ndude then asked why, after so many successful conferences, so little progress had been made so far.

Ms Ndude agreed with Mr Morgan on both the quality of the presentation and on his proposal for the establishment of a Select Committee to offer oversight.

Mr Luyenge expressed his approval of the quality of the report, and asked whether a dedicated fund should be created to allocate resources specifically for the purposes of sustainable development.

He noted, in passing, that the document should have page numbers affixed to it.

Mr Skosana agreed with the other Members on the high quality of the report, but criticised the Department's lack of visibility at the grass roots level, and asked whether and how this was to change.

The Chairperson also agreed with the Committee's members on the high quality of the report, but noted that it was inappropriate for Ms Nteo to make this presentation, in view of her junior status within the Department, without being assisted from a higher level.

She then asked how the Department planned to realise its timetable of objectives without clear funding allocations.

Ms Nteo noted that the NFSD was initiated, and would be completed, primarily with funding from international donors. The Department had been allocated operational funding, but it would be difficult at this point to match a lump sum with the cost of implementation.

Ms Nteo noted that the issue of lack of visibility had been taken seriously by the Minister, and there had been some work in this regard, but it was often attributed to affiliated departments.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee would be meeting again on Wednesday to address climate change.

The meeting was adjourned.

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