The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) gave the Committee an overview of its strategic plan, focusing on the strategic plan priorities, environmental quality and protection, biodiversity and conservation, climate change and an oceans strategy for South Africa. The Department also informed Members about the challenges that the branches faced and the amendments to be made to the current strategy that would address these issues.
The Committee’s questions centered on genetically modified organism applications, whether the country should or should not be culling elephants, the exportation of lion mandates, the resuscitation of the environmental court, whether Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) regulations would take the place of the regulations for the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, the concept of “greening” in cities and working with municipalities in open space systems. They also addressed the level of interaction between the various departments that would play a pivotal role in addressing climate change, and how the Department would assist in ensuring that municipalities spent their money accordingly. Members stated that they never received a briefing on the transfer of DEA staff to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. They also stated that the Committee had been told of plans for eradicating alien invasive plants but had not seen this happening.
The Committee was not entirely convinced that there was a need for a branch on ocean management. Members wanted to know more about regional waste facilities, waste management in rural areas, Licensing Authorities, tyre regulations, the lack of support from provinces in relation to finalisation of inspection reports, poaching cases reported in Mpumalanga in the last year, whether waste management compliance and enforcement would happen at national or provincial and local level, and what happened with the irregular issuing of the Environmental Impact Assessment given by the Department for the road to be built through the Lowveld National Botanical Gardens.
The Committee noted that the Department still referred to itself as the Department of Environmental Affairs. The Committee was of the understanding that it should be the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs
The Department informed Members that there were two different departments. The Department of Environmental Affairs was appropriated by Parliament and there was a proclamation by the National Treasury that gave a vote for the DEA and the DWA. This Committee would be dealing with two departments under one Ministry.
Department of Environmental Affairs: Strategic Plan and budget overview for 2010
Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General: Department of Environmental Affairs, gave an overview of the functions of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which included environmental quality and protection, biodiversity and conservation, and oceans and coastal management.
The Department's goals for 2010/11 to 2014/15 included delivering on its mandate, growing a learning organisation built on human capital foundation, being operationally efficient and relevant in the information age, being a financially responsible and accountable organisation giving value for money, and empowering others through information sharing and sound stakeholder relations.
The Department briefly discussed its link and role to the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) priorities. Some of the roles included improving Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), developing demand driven environmental skills, and effective air quality and waste management. The review of the financial resources strategy and Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF) allocations showed the tourism functions transfer as well as the fisheries function transfer for the years 2010/11 through to 2012/13.
She noted that there were challenges in resourcing the Departmental mandate. The baseline allocations to fund the increased departmental mandate operations, and public entities in the past years and the MTEF had been insufficient. A decrease in donor funding due to the global economic climate would put additional constraints on environmental management functions. The Department would be approaching the National Treasury to explore the idea of additional funds.
Environmental Quality and Protection
Ms Joanne Yawitch, Deputy Director-General: Environmental Quality and Protection (EQ&P) then discussed the priorities for Environmental Impact Management (EIM). The Department would continue to focus on its regulatory function, systems and tools development and EIM capacity and awareness. It would also work on a baseline and indicator to measure the impact of EIAs. One of the strategic objectives for EIM was to protect and improve the quality and safety of the environment. The Department would do this by preventing and managing potentially negative impacts of development and development patterns in the environment.
The key priorities in terms of regulatory services included having dedicated time for dealing with environmental crimes in courts, rolling out of EIM training and establishing a waste task team to focus on waste-related compliance and enforcement.
Ms Yawitch briefly explained the proposed EQ&P amendments to the current DEA strategic plan. The amendments would ensure compliance with environmental legislation. Full details were outlined in the attached document.
Key priorities for Air Quality Management (AQM) included continued development and operation of the South African Air Quality Information System, rolling out new Air Quality Act regulatory tools and supporting new Licensing Authorities.
Proposed EQ&P amendments to the current DEA strategic plan for waste and pollution management would bring about a Waste Management System that ensured less waste, which would be better managed.
Headline priorities for 2010-11 would include a waste balance status quo determination, providing support to the National Cleaning and Greening Programme, developing a labour-intensive service delivery model for waste collection and facilitating increased funding of waste services provision.
Ms Yawitch said the key challenges for 2010-11 in terms of EIM included uncertainties and frustrations with the progress of the Mining Implementation Plan, the budget and lack of capacity, the fact that there was no baseline or indicator for the impacts of the EIA and lack of information management. The key challenge for regulatory services centered on capacity building, and compliance and enforcement. The key challenge for AQM was information management, policy and regulation planning, and air quality management services. Key challenges for waste management included a lack of prioritisation of waste management across government, limited landfill management expertise and lack of reliable waste balance information.
Biodiversity and Conservation
Mr Fundisile Mketeni, Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, DEA, stated that some of the challenges experienced in the areas of biodiversity and conservation included unsustainable utilisation of natural resources, insufficient network of protected areas, declining water quality and health of ecosystems, loss of wetlands, the increasing rate of the spread of alien invasive species, and the need for improved regional integration and cross border cooperation in biodiversity and conservation management.
The Department would address these challenges by ensuring the equitable and sustainable use of natural resources, conserving and mitigating threats to biodiversity, facilitating environmental sector transformation, effectively managing and facilitating the DEA's international relations and engagements, ensuring compliance with environmental legislation, responding and adapting to climate change impacts on diversity, and building a scientific base for the effective management of natural resources.
Mr Alf Wills, Deputy Director-General: International Cooperation and Resources, DEA, discussed proposed climate change amendments to the current DEA strategic plan. The Department's objective was to provide leadership on climate change adaptation and mitigation, and to contribute to a better Africa and a better world by advancing national environmental interests through a global sustainable development agenda.
Some key challenges for 2010/11 included the development of the National Climate Change response policy, greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting, and the Department's climate change response capacity.
Oceans Strategy for South Africa
Dr Monde Mayekiso, Deputy Director-General: Marine and Coastal Management, stated that South Africa was bordered by the Indian, Atlantic and Southern Oceans. Although the oceans were used for recreational purposes, they were also used for educational, research and industrial purposes.
The DEA was the custodian of air, water, biodiversity, coastal space and ocean space and would therefore coordinate the development of the oceans strategy. The ocean was a relatively untapped national opportunity for job wealth creation; however, there was a poor coordination of effort between the Navy, Geoscience, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and other government departments.
The Department's strategy was aimed at showing the people of South Africa the total value of the oceans’ space. The Department used a model that was created by the United Kingdom in 2007 to look at why the ocean mattered, what needed to be changed and what needed to be done to determine its true value. The model looked at the integration between land and sea, and environmental data and information. This data would be used for planning over a range of time scales. It would also be used for valuing and discounting over time the opportunity costs of selecting one form of ocean use over another.
The model would result in realising opportunities and ensuring the sustainability of the ocean, and the oceans' ability to provide goods and services for the nation. Some of these opportunities include weather and climate services, transport services, tourism, mining and fisheries.
Ms M Mabuza (ANC) was concerned that the Committee never received feedback on the achievements and failures of previous strategic plans. There were alien flowers, lantana camara, growing along some roads, which were spreading at a very fast rate and were killing certain animals. Year in and year out the Committee was told about plans for eradicating alien plants, yet this did not happen. She asked how many staff members from the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism were relocated to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). She told Dr Mayekiso that she was not expecting him to present an ocean strategy for South Africa based on a model from the United Kingdom. She wanted the strategy to be more specific to South Africa or to focus more specifically on the South African scenario.
Ms Ngcaba stated that the Department presented a report in either August or September to indicate how far the Department was with the implementation of the strategic plan. It was also in the process of compiling an Annual Report, which would be presented to the Committee for consideration. The Member would have an opportunity to review the Report and to discuss it with the Department. The meeting today was just to discuss the strategic plan.
Ms Ngcaba then addressed the question concerning the spread of alien plants. She replied that control of the alien species was being implemented by Water Affairs through the Working for Water (WfW) programme. The Department of Environmental Affairs still coordinated with Water Affairs as the project was part of an environmental sector programme. The Department of Environmental Affairs was the coordinator of the water affairs and agriculture programme in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). She agreed that the lantana camara was out of hand and that a lot of alien plant species caused biological damage and had an adverse effect on water resources. However, there were limited resources and eradicating all the alien plants would take billions of rands.
Mr Mketeni added that the Department was in the process of developing regulations to address issues around invasive alien plants and to align some responsibility to those who would focus on the problems. There had to be a plan or strategy in place, as well as penalties and incentives for those involved in eradicating the plants.
Mr G Morgan (DA) stated that it was sad that there was no Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) “commencement”. His understanding was that the formerly named Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) had no intention of commencing the current Act, and it would be amended before being put in operation.
Mr Morgan noted that the Department said it could not comment on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) applications. He asked if GMO applications were supposed to trigger a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Mr Mketeni replied that the Department was still in the process of assessing and commenting on GMO applications. At the same time, the Department developed a risk assessment framework that had to be considered with GMO applications. When assessing applications, the Department also considered the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) as well as the Biodiversity Act.
Mr Morgan wanted to know how far the Department was in making a decision as to whether there should or should not be culling of elephants. He stated that the Department had made great strides in cutting down lion hunting; however, there was a new phenomenon where lion bones were being exported. He asked if this was a matter on the Department’s agenda and what were its thoughts on the matter.
Mr Mketeni stated that the government had not announced a decision on whether or not to cull animals. The Department was waiting until any entity came to it to show whether culling was a management option. The Department recently received a report showing that elephants were impacting negatively on plants, insects and water. It seemed inevitable that culling would become normal practice in South Africa.
Mr Mketeni added that the Department was caught by surprise when it discovered that lion bones were being exported. Unfortunately, it was not illegal to trade the different parts of some species; therefore, there was nothing stopping traders from trading lion bones. This was an issue that the Department might have to discuss with the provinces.
Mr Morgan stated that the Committee never received a briefing on the transfer of staff to the DAFF even though his colleagues in the Portfolio Committee for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries received a briefing already. He had read the proclamation so he understood what happened, but he felt that the Committee had been excluded from the process entirely.
Ms Ngcaba addressed the issue of the transfer of staff. She understood that Members had not had a presentation on the matter and explained that this sequence of events had occurred during the time when Members were no longer sitting in Parliament, namely end of November and December 2009. She explained that the transfer had not happened yet. The proclamation stated that the transfer would happen, officially, on 1 April 2010. It was decided that fisheries was an economic function and would be transferred to the Department of Agriculture. The proclamation outlined what the Environmental functions would be and what Fisheries functions would be. Approximately 200 people would be transferred from Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) in the Department of Environmental Affairs to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Marine Living Resources Fund would be transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Mr Morgan said he was not entirely convinced that there was a need for a branch on ocean management, which was not to say that there was no need to work on strategies for ocean management within the Department. He wondered why it had its own branch and was not included under biodiversity. The presentation given by Dr Mayekiso was not worthy of a strategic plan; therefore, he did not see a case for the branch even existing. He wanted to know how many staff members would be allocated to the branch and how much funding it would receive. He was concerned that the Department would not be able to allocate a budget for the period going forward, as it could not present a strategic plan for managing oceans. The Committee did not know about the “costings” and what the priorities were for the year. He felt uneasy about a branch that had been created with no strategic plan or money, and was doubtful as to whether the branch should exist on its own.
Ms Ngcaba stated that Dr Mayekiso was an employee of the Department and his presentation was not a branch presentation. He was not presenting a strategy for a branch but was presenting what the Department outlined. The Minister had discussions about redeploying Dr Mayekiso within the Department because of various issues. Dr Mayekiso would look at strategies to manage marine biodiversity and the link to climate change and coastal development.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) noted that the Minister had said that there would be a resuscitation of the Environmental Court. She asked the Department to comment on this.
Ms Ngcaba stated that the courts were run by the Department of Justice. In the negotiations with the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Minister and other officials, and in light of the current financial situation, it was decided that there would not be dedicated resources for an Environmental Court. The Departments could also not confirm that there would be demand for such courts in the long term. The DEA would have to continue to use existing infrastructure available to it.
Ms Lovemore referred to the mention of the deteriorating quality of water resources. She was interested in the level of interaction between the DEA and the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) in discussing the deterioration of the quality of water resources. Even though the DEA was concerned about the issue, DWA was sitting with the legislation that could be used to address the matter. The Committee heard that there had been a prohibition on any legal action taken against municipalities by officials, which would affect DEA.
Ms Lovemore asked whether the Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) regulations, which were coming up this year, would take the place of the regulations for the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act. This Act required private land owners to remove alien species, and it was an enormous burden on farmers.
Mr Mketeni stated that the Department wanted to engage with the agricultural sector when drawing up the AIS regulations, but had realised that this was not possible because their mandates were slightly different. The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act looked more at the impact on agricultural resources, while the environmental sector looked at a broader range of resources. The Department had to develop two sets of regulations, although the two sectors agreed on the corporate governance aspects.
Ms Lovemore wanted to know more about the regional waste facility and hoped the Department would be looking at more than one facility for healthcare risk waste. The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality did not have a healthcare risk waste facility. As the law stood at the moment, nobody had the responsibility of developing one. She wondered if an amendment to the National Environmental Management: Waste Management Act was necessary to rectify the problem.
Ms Yawitch replied that the Member was right about the country lacking a legal stipulation saying who had to develop waste facilities. At this point in time they were largely developed by the private sector, but there were major problems with the cost structure of the industry. It seemed that the major root of the problem was that people were trying to “undercut” one another in an industry that actually had high costs, which then translated in to sub-economic results. The Department was going to approach the National Treasury for assistance in conducting studies that would determine where one or more regional facilities could be built. This would mean that the Department would enter into a long term agreement with the private sector to build a facility that would meet the environmental and health standards that were required.
Ms Lovemore looked at the concept of “greening” in cities and working with municipalities in open space systems. She was concerned that it was a very operational activity. She knew that DWA wanted to step back from the operational side so that it could focus on policy regulations. Seeing that the project was very operational, she questioned whether this was not a “danger” for DEA. She feared that municipalities might depend on DEA to take control of the project.
Mr Mketeni addressed the issue of “greening”. He stated that the Department was not interfering in the operational aspect of the programme. They were just concerned about the type of trees that would have to be planted in municipalities. They did not want a situation whereby they ended up planting alien plants; therefore, they just wanted to guide municipalities with the types of trees and the design in which they should be planted.
Ms Lovemore wanted to know what the level of interaction was between the various departments that would play a pivotal role in addressing climate change. She was trying to find out from the Minister what targets the country had committed to, in terms of climate change. The Minister did not make any statements subsequent to the meeting in New Delhi. It was strange that this issue was not made public.
Ms Yawitch stated that the Department coordinated with the intergovernmental committee on climate change and a national committee on climate change. There were approximately twenty government departments that participated in the intergovernmental committee. It was agreed that the National Planning Commission would participate as well, once it was fully up and running. Fundamentally, as the committees moved forward in the policy process, the different departments would engage and coordinate their policies on climate change. The National Treasury, provinces and municipalities would also be participating in the climate change project. The Department would be talking about this in more detail at their workshop.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) looked at the Department’s goals and strategic objectives for 2010/11 to 2014/15. One of the goals was stated as the Department becoming a financially responsible and accountable organisation that gave value for money. One of the challenges was that municipalities were given money for issues relating to environmental matters, but it was later found that the money was not spent according to the initial requirements. He asked how the Department could assist in ensuring that municipalities spent the money properly, and how it could monitor and ensure that municipalities were delivering on projects related to the Department.
He noted that one of the Department’s roles was to develop demand driven environmental skills, and wondered how the Department would do this. He wanted to know what the Department’s strategy was for making sure that the industry was part and parcel of the strategic plan to prevent air pollution and other environmental hazards. Waste management in rural areas was a matter of urgency as well.
Ms Ngcaba replied that there was a danger of “blurring lines” in terms of Constitutional responsibility. Local Government was supposed to be in charge of certain duties such as waste management and air quality management. However, national departments were now being told by the President that they were expected to be more proactive. Departments had to find a way to take action without taking over from local government.
Ms Yawitch addressed the question on waste management in rural areas. The Department identified the fact that there were some people in municipalities who did not have the skills to do the job. Some Departmental officials trained some people in municipalities, but unfortunately the Department did not have the resources to go out and train every municipality in the country. The Department decided it would transfer a basic level of skills to those people who were running waste sites in rural and urban areas to ensure better management. This was the training programme that the Department wanted to put in place this year.
Chairperson Sotyu noted that one of the priorities mentioned for air quality management was that the Department would give support to the new Licensing Authorities. She asked the presenters to elaborate on this. She suggested that the Department answer some of the questions at their workshop. She addressed the Waste Management Strategy asking the Department to elaborate on what the tyre regulations were. One of the key challenges for 2010/11 was compliance with and enforcement of regulatory services. She noted that there was lack of support from provinces in relation to finalisation of inspection reports. She asked the Department to comment on this. She enquired if there was a strategy in place to deal with all the challenges that were raised in the presentation. She was impressed by the presentation on climate change.
Ms Yawitch stated that municipalities were the Licensing Authorities when it came to air quality management. The Air Quality Act was intended to come in to effect, in its entirety, on 1 April 2010. For the last three years, the Department worked with municipalities and provinces on transfers, capacity building, training and developing their systems. The Department would support the Air Quality Officers in provinces and municipalities, and provide them with guidance and technical expertise if needed.
Ms Yawitch stated that tyre regulations were new and determined the conditions under which tyres became a waste product. An organisation called the South African Tyre Recycling Association was in the process of working with the industry to determine how a set of waste tyres could be used for other purposes. The cement industry wanted to use shredded waste tyres as a fuel source. There were many different uses for waste tyres such as road surfacing and using them for diesel. There would be a lot more developments for the use of waste tyres.
Ms Yawitch addressed the lack of provincial support in the finalisation of inspection reports. The Department's compliance initiative in any project, including waste management, involved national, provincial and local government working together. When a place was inspected, a report of the findings was needed. Some of the provinces did not have the capacity at various levels to get their information back to the national department, which meant that the inspection could not be concluded. This was a challenge that had to be resolved.
Ms Mabuza stated that abalone fishing was happening in the Eastern Cape and 133 emerging fisheries had lost their licenses. The Department made a commitment to send scientists to take stock of abalone in those areas. She asked that the Committee receive a briefing on what was happening, as those fisheries were still waiting for the Department to inform them why their licenses were revoked while big fishing companies were still fishing abalone in those areas.
Chairperson Mathebe stated that there were a lot of poaching cases reported in Mpumalanga in the last year. He asked if it was fitting for the Department to ask the Department of Justice to look in to the matter. He noted that one of the priorities in waste management was to focus on compliance and enforcement. He asked if this would happen at national level or at provincial and local level. He noted that the Department spoke of “greening” open spaces. He asked how this would apply to deep rural areas.
Ms Ngcaba stated that the DEA relied on information held by the DoJ. DEA focused on provinces that had the highest number of environmental crimes such as Kwazulu-Natal, Western Cape and the Free State. This did not mean that Mpumalanga was not important. The DoJ was still looking at ways to work with other provinces.
In relation to the question around provincial and local government, Ms Ngcaba said that the Department analysed the capacity and ability of local government to implement and provide environmental services. These abilities were found to be almost non-existent in most districts. The National Treasury (NT) was giving the Department funds for labour intensive work. The Department decided to give these funds to municipalities so that they could get the capacity and abilities that were needed. The Department was looking at skills development and was also appointing some people who would be placed in municipalities.
Chairperson Sotyu asked why the Department still referred to itself as the Department of Environmental Affairs. The Committee was of the understanding that it should be named the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs.
Ms Ngcaba informed Members that there were two different departments. The Department of Environmental Affairs was appropriated by Parliament and there was a proclamation by the National Treasury that gave a vote for the DEA and the DWA. This Committee would be dealing with two departments under one Ministry.
Chairperson Mathebe asked the Department to explain the issue of the EIA report that was issued irregularly by the Department for the Lowveld National Botanical Gardens.
Ms Yawitch answered that South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) had put in an application for a road and produced a map showing that the road would cut through a part of the Botanical Gardens. SANRAL consulted with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) on the issue but failed to initiate the de-proclamation process before starting constructing the road. When an EIA authorisation was issued, it had to state that it did not remove the need for compliance with any other legislation. The Department's advice was to comply with all the legislation first, and the EIA was just another part of the regulatory process. The problem occurred when the EIA was not done at the correct point of the process. She suspected that it was because the road had to be completed by 2010. She also wanted to be clear that it was the Department's understanding that the part of the Botanical Gardens through which the road passed was not as environmentally sensitive as the rest of the Garden.
Chairperson Sotyu stated that there was not enough time for the rest of the presentation. The presentation would have to be completed at another meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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