Water and Environmental Affairs Ministerial and Departmental responses to State of Nation Address & 2010 job creation strategy

Water and Sanitation

27 February 2012
Chairperson: Adv J de Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Ministers and Departments of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and of Water Affairs (DWA) attended the meeting to brief the Committee on how the 2012 State of the Nation Address (SONA) impacted directly upon the work of these departments. The DEA noted, in response to a comment from the Chairperson, that the recommendations of the National Planning Commission (NPC) had been taken into account, but there were differences in policy that would need to be debated further. It was emphasised that much of the work of the DEA was done in collaboration with other departments and that although it played a regulatory or advisory role, it did not actually implement in certain areas. For instance, although it would implement environmental regulations, it would not be directly involved in infrastructure development. Most of its job creation strategy was done through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). DEA would be directly involved in the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil, and the experience and knowledge gained from the Conference of Parties (COP17) would feed into this conference. The green economy initiatives were led by the Department of Economic Development, but DEA implemented the sector plans. Implementation would be done through strategic partnerships and fiscal, Green Fund and donor funding. Members queried whether sustainable development should be integrated into the Office of the Presidency, noted the importance of educating the public on reduction of emissions and any carbon taxes, and on the impacts of climate change, and questioned the relationship between the DEA and Department of Mineral Resources in relation to environmental impact assessments. They commented that many of the programmes were run in an ad hoc rather than systematic way, and asked about job creation.

The DWA noted that it had identified some priorities from the COP17 conference and would be trying to report back systematically to make them understandable to ordinary citizens. Mitigation and adaptation mechanisms to the National Climate Change Response Policy’s action plan would be important in preparation for COP18. Clusters and inter-governmental frameworks would be important in ensuring a proper move from policy to implementation. Further details on coordination of efforts for climate change would be presented at another meeting. The work on various water infrastructure projects was outlined. These projects had created 1 600 direct jobs. More work was being done on renewable energy in partnership with Eskom, in particular. Members agreed that full public consultation processes must be supported. They noted that further details were needed on job creation, and the Department undertook to provide more detailed statistics at the next meeting. Water initiatives for dry areas were questioned, and Members also questioned why another study was needed on the Umzimvubu River Dam, which would delay the building of the dam still further. Once again, the Department asked for time to get specific details and report back.

Meeting report

The Chairperson reminded representatives from both the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) that they should work in a systematic way to prepare their strategic plans and programmes, and should, in particular, take into account the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Report of the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the 2012 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Ms Lize McCourt, Chief Operations Officer, Department of Environmental Affairs, said that the DEA already had prepared a draft report in response to the National Planning Commission recommendations, but noted that there were differences between DEA policy and the NPC’s recommendations.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General, Department of Environmental Affairs, also emphasised that it would be crucial to read the NPC report together with the DEA comments on that report.

Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) response to 2012 State of the Nation Address and 2010 Job Creation Strategy
Ms McCourt outlined that the DEA had examined those areas in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that directly or indirectly impacted on the DEA’s work, including the work that it did in collaboration with Departments of Health, Education, Human Settlements, and Water Affairs, as well as the work with those who were responsible for the development plan for the eradication of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

In this regard she drew attention to specific programmes. DEA was indirectly involved in infrastructure development, but had been tasked with ensuring the implementation of the regulatory framework set up to ensure sustainable development. In the area of job creation, DEA was directly involved, through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), which had been described in detail during a previous meeting. In respect of renewable energy, DEA was again indirectly tasked with ensuring compliance with the regulatory framework. In respect of acid mine draining, DEA assumed an advisory role to the Department of Water Affairs and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).
 
She noted that one of the highlights for DEA in this year would be the Rio +20 Conference in Brazil because DEA had direct responsibility and assumed a co-ordinating role, as country positions would be taken in discussions. The experience, knowledge and material that DEA had gained from the previous Conference of Parties (COP17) would feed into this conference. However, there would be  greater emphasis on the Green Economy and the institutional arrangement for implementation of COP17 resolutions and agreements, especially for developing countries.

Ms McCourt further elaborated on the Green Economy and job creation. This was led by the Department of Economic Development (EDD) as part of the New Growth Path, whilst the DEA implemented sector action plans emanating from the National Green Economy Strategy. She added further details by listing major event greening initiatives (see attached presentation), which were illustrated by the country’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup and COP 17. She also drew attention to the priority programmes discussed in the previous week, especially those forming part of the EPWP and the DEA’s drive for job creation. She noted that the implementation would be done through strategic partnerships and funding, not only through the fiscus, but also though donors and the Green Fund announced by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in the previous year.

Discussion
Gen B Holomisa (UDM) asked whether more benefit would be gained by integrating sustainable development efforts with the Office of the Presidency, given that the NPC was monitored by that Office.

Ms McCourt reminded the Committee that the NPC was not a government institution, nor did it have implementation powers. It was for this reason that the decision had been taken to house the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD) with the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, to raise its profile and to allow for easier coordination.

Gen Holomisa noted that the President, in Copenhagen, had committed South Africa to lowering emissions. He asked whether businesses and the general public had been informed of how this programme would work, noting the taxing on all new cars.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) agreed with Gen Holomisa on the need to inform and mobilise the general public about climate change and how it impacted on the ordinary citizen, stating that there were numerous regulations and incentives. He also questioned the strategies for monitoring and evaluating how well South Africa managed climate change.

These questions did not appear to have been answered.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) asked about the relationship between the DEA and the private mining sector regarding Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations. She said that in her constituency, there were still instances of abuse by mining companies.

Ms McCourt answered that the EIA regulations relating to mining were not managed by DEA, but by the DMR. Any violations by mining companies should be reported to DMR inspectors.

Mr G Morgan (DA) questioned DEA’s capacity to achieve the MDGs and the recommendations by the NPC and COP17. He said that many of the DEA’s programmes seemed to be run in an ad hoc way, and many of the programmes were run by other departments. He said there had been little progress thus far in accomplishing the resolutions or recommendations of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, despite that it was now almost ten years since the conference had been held.

Dr S Huang (ANC) asked about job creation efforts. He noted that the deadline for the meeting of the job creation targets was 2014. He enquired what proportion of these jobs would come from renewable energy programmes.

Ms McCourt repeated that DEA played a largely a regulatory role in many programmes, so job creation efforts within DEA were limited to EPWP. However, all implementing departments were encouraged to pursue development initiatives in a labour-intensive manner.

Department of Water Affairs (DWA) response to the SONA and the 2010 Job Creation Strategy
Ms Thandeka Mbassa, Deputy Director-General: Regions, DWA, noted what priorities the DWA had identified from the COP17 conference, and said that the DWA would try to make these understandable to ordinary citizens by reporting back comprehensively on the outcomes and commitments. Mitigation and adaptation mechanisms to the National Climate Change Response Policy’s action plan were also important in preparing for COP18. She commented on Mr Morgan’s earlier remarks about institutional arrangements and noted that Director-General’s Clusters and the inter-governmental framework must play a fundamental role in the move from policy formulation to implementation.

Ms Ngcaba added that Cabinet was already planning consultations with the different levels of government to help create coordinated efforts to climate change. National Treasury gave a mandate to DEA, together with the Development Bank of Southern Africa, to support “green” developmental initiatives, and she suggested that details on this should be presented when the stakeholders were present together at one meeting.

Mr Trevor Balzer, Chief Operating Officer, DWA, highlighted aspects of the SONA that related to water, as well as those relating to the “triple threat” of unemployment, poverty, and inequality, in line with the New Growth Path and infrastructure development (see attached presentation for details). He highlighted the work on the water infrastructure projects in Limpopo – at Waterberg and Steelpoort – and the dam at the Umzimvubu River in the Eastern Cape. He noted that these infrastructure development projects had created 1 600 direct jobs. He also noted the seminal work that was being done, in partnership with other entities, on renewable energy, and named in particular the hydro-electric partnerships with Eskom.

Discussion
The Chairperson commended the methodical manner in which these departments had managed to integrate the tenets of SONA into programmes. He encouraged Committee Members to engage with Gen. Holomisa’s suggestion for an extensive public consultation process.

The Chairperson announced the appointment of a new Director General in the Department of Water Affairs, Mr Maxwell Sirenya.

Dr Huang asked for more information regarding job creation initiatives.

Mr Balzer admitted that the statistics could be better stated and said that these would be improved for presentation again at the next meeting.

Ms Manganya asked about water initiatives for dry areas in the country, particularly in the North West and Northern Cape, stating that there was also a treaty in place to supply Botswana with water.

Ms Mbassa said that the cause of most of the water supply challenges in the North West and Northern Cape related to the management of ground water infrastructure, skills shortages, and inadequate maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Mr Skosana asked for specifics around job creation, particularly asking what targets the DWA had set.

Mr Balzer again acknowledged that the statistics presented could be improved, and promised to return with more specific and accurate figures and details to present to a future meeting.

Gen. Holomisa reminded members about a commitment by former Minister Ms Buyelwa Sonjica, in 2009, to build the Umzimvubu River Dam, which was based on a study done pre-1994. He asked why Departmental project managers now apparently required a new comprehensive study, saying that this would take another two years.

Mr Balzer said he was familiar with this project, as he had worked in that region some years previously, but he asked for some time to do further research on the specifics, and would report back to the Committee with a full answer.

Mr Maxwell Sirenya, Director General, Department of Water Affairs, agreed that it would be necessary to conduct more research before giving a full answer.

The Chairperson consolidated the key points raised in the meeting.

He encouraged both departments to be more specific in their reports in future.

The meeting was adjourned.

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