Environmental Affairs 2012 Strategic Plan (continued)

Water and Sanitation

12 March 2012
Chairperson: Mr J. De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs spoke about its strategic plans for its Biodiversity and Conservation, Oceans and Coasts and Chemicals and Waste Management Branches. The contentious issues surrounding the conservation of rhinos entered the discussion. The Department mentioned that the number of births far outnumbered the deaths downplaying the crisis rhino conservation faced. This outraged some of the members who advised the Department that they needed to improve their communication on such a sensitive matter and to realise that there was a crisis because not long ago, there was zero poaching and at the moment, it was escalating at a rate that rendered it a crisis. One Member asked why SANParks was not allowed to communicate on the issue. The Department clarified that it was not that SANParks was not allowed, it was because the Department needed to communicate about the issue in a unified manner.

The Department said that the time was not yet right to approach the CITES meeting on the country’s proposal as they needed to lobby the right partners in order to be successful. They had seen some bids fail such as that of Kenya and Tanzania on ivory and they wanted to avoid those mistakes. The Committee said that no time was the right time and advised the Department to make a decision about the position of the country on the rhino issue and prepare well in advance for the CITES meeting where they hoped to make their proposal. The Committee emphasised timelines and deadlines and urged the Department to move quickly.

The Ocean Conservation Policies are yet to be finalised and the Committee found that surprising though the Department had explained that the focus on the past had been fishing and not necessarily conserving the oceans. The Department said that SA was not far behind other countries such as the USA and France who were just finalising theirs.

Mining was another area that needed to integrate some conservation measures. The Department said that mining was the only industry that did not operate under the National Environmental Management Act and still operated under the old Petroleum Act. The Committee advised that the Department needed to find balance between growth and sustainable development especially as the State of the Nation Address referred to mining as important area of growth for SA and it also emphasised the importance of the environment.

The meeting concluded the Department’s briefing on its and the Committee said they were happy overall with what they had heard and urged the Department to really put in place timelines and deadlines for the important work that needed to happen.

Meeting report

Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA): Biodiversity & Conservation branch
Mr Fundisile Mketeni, Deputy Director General: Biodiversity and Conservation, said the branch had acquired a new Chief Directorate, Biodiversity Economy and Sustainable Use. For 2011/12, the Branch had reached most of its targets. The only areas where the Branch under-performed included the reduction in the area (hectares) affected by drought, land degradation, and desertification. The Department had planned to reduce about 800ha but it only managed to reduce 329ha. Some of the challenges the Branch faced included escalating environmental crime and the cost of prevention, the ongoing scourge of the illegal killing of rhinos, mining in environmentally sensitive areas which provide critical ecosystem services such as water (wetlands). In considering the State of the Nation Address, the Branch would look at the New Growth Path, the Regional Infrastructure Development, the Green Paper on Land Reform and Mining. The Branch had quite a lot of international obligations and targets for the country in the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), World Heritage Convention (WHC), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the Ramsar Convention, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the SADC Protocol on Wildlife and Law Enforcement.

Discussion
Mr De Lange expressed his disappointment in the way the information had been presented saying that the Department needed to find a better way to present information to make it more easy to understand. He suggested that the Department draw up a diagram of all the international obligations of the country and what the Department was doing in each of them. The diagram would provide a much better picture.

Mr Mketeni apologised and said he took note of the comments for improvements.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) wanted to know if the specialists working with the Department were from inside or outside the country as the last time the Department presented, they had experienced problems as they did not have specialists.

The Department replied that they used specialists in the country if they were available.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked for clarity on the source of water being used at the Kruger National Park as he said that there was an outcry relating to water in the area.

Mr De Lange explained that the DDG had said that the Blyde River catchment provided the water from the mountains.

Mr Mketeni said that the Department had dedicated an entire presentation to the issue as it was a multisectoral matter. The Department wanted to look at the issue of river systems, and early and invasive species in the catchment area as well as ecotourism in the area. The Department had realised that there was a canal that was not properly managed for women farmers using it. They wanted Water Affairs and Rural Development to put in a pipeline to the treatment plant for water. The Department wanted to achieve their mandate to save rivers.

Mr G Morgan (DA) asked if the Department had applied its mind to reviewing the efficacy and failures of SANParks as it was raised in the Committee the year before and was also mentioned in the Committee report to Parliament. Also it had been 10-11 years after the strategy was passed by Parliament. Secondly he asked if the Department had made up its mind to make a submission to the Conference of the Parties in Thailand about the rhino trade. Had the Department made up its mind yet about its position on the issue? Where was the Department in terms of the process? He was worried as the Department may be late already given that it had to do quite a bit of preparatory work.

Mr Mketeni replied that in looking at the bottom line for SANParks, they were improving and it showed that the commercial strategy was successful.

Mr De Lange clarified Mr Morgan’s question to the Department. Had they had made any feasibility assessment of their commercialisation potential and if what they were doing, was the best for them?

The Director General
, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, answered that the Department and Treasury had made a decision to undertake a review and that they would report back to the Committee as the process was still running. When the Department did its budget review the year before, the Department determined that SANParks prices needed to change. But the matter had to be taken back to the Minister for discussion and for confirmation. She emphasised that the reviews were not based on how much SANParks was making for the Department. It was about advancing conservation and looking at its responsibility towards the public good.

Mr De Lange indicated that the assessment was important and that it needed to be done quickly. People were worried about the Kruger Park and worried that commercialisation would lead to exclusivity. He advised that the Department needed to find ways that people, who otherwise would not be able participate, could visit the Parks. He cited the example of Isimangaliso, saying that the price structure excluded many of the local people from entering as they could not afford it.

Mr De Lange asked for explanation on how the process worked for CITES if one wanted to change something, if a notice needed to be given beforehand, how long before did this have to happen. He had asked the DDG to give a timetable working backwards and to advise what the deadlines were. He advised that the Government needed to have a clear position on where it stood on the issue and it must move forth despite the lobby group activities.

Mr Mketeni said the Department had discussed the CITES matter and had determined that it was important to go to the CITES meeting with a proposal but they felt that it was not the right timing to engage on their position. However, the Department was developing a plan and they were hoping to go to 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES [in Thailand in March 2013].

Mr De Lange intervened and asked when the Department felt the time would be right. It was not a question of what the industry wanted and what the lobbyist wanted but about how to maximise the protection of the rhino. He was worried that by “right time”, SA may only have had one rhino left. He told the Department that the issue was not whether the time was right but whether the Department wanted to do it or not and suggest the change.

Mr De Lange continued that he knew about the risks and why the Committee suggested that the Department have a time frame. He said there was a right way and the wrong way, but his feeling was the answer was not black and not white, but grey, somewhere in the middle.

Mr Mketeni said that each third party needed to have a proposal. They had learnt from the case of ivory that if they did not lobby properly, then it would not succeed. In their plan, they had requested Parliament to lobby. SA had learned from the case of Tanzania and Kenya who had failed in their attempts to downlist the elephant so they could trade ivory. SA needed to get some influential partners on its side like the European Union. He also pointed out that according to the rhino numbers SA had, it was not really in a crisis but the public out there was saying there was one.

Mr De Lange referred to a submission made in a recent committee meeting where statistics had been presented showing that there were more births than deaths of rhinos but that did not mean there was not a  crisis. He emphasised that there was a crisis because the other day, there was zero poaching and it had grown to 500 poached in a short space of time.

Mr Morgan expressed a clear distaste towards the Department’s statement that there was no crisis, saying that he was really annoyed by such a statement. He cautioned the Department to choose their words carefully saying, it could not go around saying that there was no crisis. He urged the Department to understand that people were not seeing the results. The Department needed to put a lot more effort into the words they used to communicate about the issue. He could not understand why SANParks was not allowed to communicate about the rhino issue especially given that the park rangers were sending smses and other communications as soon as a rhino got killed. The Department would not be able to stop that. He commented that DEA needed to be aware that civil society was always ahead and that DEA was made to look bad when it tried to centralise control of communication – this would not work.

Mr De Lange warned that the Department needed to careful on how it justified its actions on certain issues especially when there was clearly a huge crisis.

The Director General clarified that because the Department appreciated there was a crisis, the Minister had asked for additional interventions from the Department. Hence the Department had increased the capacity to coordinate certain functions and one of them was communications. It was never said that SANParks was not allowed to communicate but it was about coordinating communications better. She emphasised that there was no way that the Department would ever want to centralise communication. The Minister of Environmental Affairs had met with the Minister of Defence to pay more attention to the poaching.

Mr Albi Modise, Chief Director: Communications, added that the plan was not to control the list of statistics and the Department had never said that SANParks was not allowed to talk but for the Department to work and communicate in a unified way.

Mr De Lange said to the Director General that he wanted to see deadlines. If the Department wanted to see lobbying happen then it needed to happen at this moment. That meant the Department and the Government would need to have a position and such decisions needed to happen right away. He cautioned that lobbyists were going to throw their weight behind the points they were trying to make because they did not feel the government was doing enough to stop the poaching.

Mr De Lange insisted that the only way resolve the situation was to cripple the black market. He urged the Department to make some serious movement on the issue in crippling the black market. The Committee needed to see timelines and deadlines.

The Director General said that the Department would come back to the Committee with a plan and the deadlines and timelines for the rhino issues and the position for SA. She said the Department would communicate better with the Committee on this issue in the future.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) asked how long it took to assess a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) application and what the Department’s plans were on the land settlement areas. He asked the Department to clarify the statement about core management.

Mr Mketeni explained that there were, in terms of GMO, issues that needed compliance like labeling and buffering, which was planting GMO plants in such a way for them to avoid affecting the ecosystem.

Mr De Lange asked about the practical implications of that and how bees for example were prevented from pollinating the GMO plants.

Mr Mketeni said that studies had been conducted which determined how far the bees would go and how far the pollens were blown by the wind and such studies helped in the buffering exercises.

Mr Mketeni clarified core management to mean clarity on how protected areas should engage with communities and it looked at specific issues around the different areas which determined the way the Department would engage with various stakeholders.

Mr S Huang (ANC) asked where the budget was and how the Department linked to the entities and also how they were supported. He also asked how the Department made the links to the rhino issue.

Mr Mketeni said that the Director General’s transfer letter was clear in how funds should be spent. The Department would transfer about R10m to SANParks for the rhino protection.

The Director General added that the Department had a governance framework that outlined what each entity was supposed to do on a quarterly basis. She explained that when the budget was given to the entity, they usually outlined what needed to be done. When entities presented their strategic plans, they would be able to see that the actual increase in budget would go to those areas.

Mr De Lange asked if the Department looked at the plans for the entities particularly given that the conservation budget had been increased. He asked if the mining guidelines had been completed and if the Department was just waiting for Cabinet to adopt them. He also asked if the Department was going to engage on the issue of finding the balance between sustainable development and maximising resources. If the participation of the stakeholders were not maximised, then it would be a narrow intervention.

The Director General replied that there was matrix document developed by the DEA and the Department of Mineral Resources and that the Ministers would continue to work on the two areas.

Mr De Lange asked for the matrix document and the guidelines to be sent to the Committee

Ms Lize McCourt, Chief Operations Officer for the Department, explained DEA’s work on mining was based on three areas via Government’s Outcome 10. There was an agreement on mine restricted areas to be informed by biodiversity & sensitivity matters; where mining could go ahead and that it happened in a way to optimise positive mining. The guidelines spoke of sustainability and the Department had made progress in providing advice to the Minister. The Department would provide the Committee with the documents, and the matrix and
Geographical Information System (GIS) guidelines during the proposed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) workshop with the Committee.

Oceans and Coasts branch
Dr Monde Mayekiso, DDG Coastal Management said the Unit’s purpose was to manage and protect SA’s oceans, coastal environment and their resources. The unit had four programmes: Integrated Coastal Management, Oceans Conservation, Oceans & Coastal Research, Oceans & Coasts Specialist Monitoring. The unit had achieved most of its targets for the 2011/12 financial year. No policy framework existed for conservation and protection of the oceans. There were also policy gaps in terms of oil spills, coastal storms and storm surge sensitivity, and there was no national index of biodiversity vulnerability.

Discussion
Mr De Lange said that it was clear from the presentation that a lot of work needed to be done in the branch and that he was actually quite shocked that so little had been done and so many policy issues remained outstanding.

Dr Mayekiso replied that SA had paid much more attention in the past to fishing but not to conservation issues in the ocean. He mentioned that France and the USA were also just finalising their conservation plans.

Mr Huang asked about the polar research vessel and what the Department intended to do with the old one.

Dr Mayekiso explained that the vessel that would be replaced by the new one, was thirty two years old and one could no longer get insurance for it to go out to the sea. Rather than selling it, it was better to give it to the Department of Transport to use for the training of seafarers.

Ms Manganye remarked that it was important to know what SA had and to also have the specialised skills needed for operation of ships for monitoring.

Dr Mayekiso said that monitoring the SA seas was very important and about 15 000 ships went around the coast every year but the Department did monitor the seas. SA needed to develop skills quickly as the ocean environment was very hard to work in and it was also expensive. SA also needed to put a lot of effort in exploiting economic opportunities from the seas for job creation.

Mr De Lange advised that the Oceans Policy needed to be finalised.

Chemicals and Waste Management branch
Acting DDG: Chemicals & Waste Management, Mr Ishaam Abader, said the purpose of the unit was to manage and ensure chemical waste management policies and legislation were implemented and enforced in compliance with chemicals and waste management authorisations, directives and agreements. The unit had four chief directorates: Hazardous Waste Management, General Waste and Local Government Support, Chemicals & Waste Policy, Evaluation & Monitoring and Chemicals Management. Three of the Chief Director posts in the unit were vacant. Achievements for 2011/12 were noted Most of the targets for the past financial year had been achieved. Where progress had not been made, this was identified. The targets for 2012/13 were outlined.

Discussion.
Mr Huang said that the short presentation and the three vacant chief director posts surprised him. He asked how the unit managed without people to do the work.

Mr Abader clarified that there were people in the posts but their tenure would only come into effect on April 1, 2012. He himself was in the acting position until 1 April 2012

Mr De Lange asked the Director General to redo the Department diagram to show which posts were new to give the Committee a better picture.

Mr Mathebe asked Mr Abader how long he had held the Acting post. Did the Department have a mechanism to monitor waste disposal sites to ensure how the municipalities complied with and monitored their sites? How was the database of national contaminated land developed? It seemed the DEA did not have the capacity or were not serious about capacitating the municipalities to give them the information.

Mr Abader replied that the Department had trained some municipal officers on waste issues.

Mr Mpho Tshitangoni,
Director: Authorizations and Waste Disposal Management, added that in the coming year, CFOs and Technical Directors from the municipalities would be trained. There were quite a few landfill sites and from the action plans they had done already, some would be closed.

He continued that the database had not been done yet. The Department of Water Affairs had a database of contaminated land. One of the things they needed to do was to have the database of contaminated land and the level of its contamination. The Department was in the process of gathering available information.

Ms Wenger asked about the status of 341 unlicensed sites the Department reported on. She asked to where the 50 Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs) trained by the Department had gone. She asked if the statistics could be placed together with the percentages to make monitoring easier.

The Department explained that it had received 120 applications for the 2011/12 financial year. It had nothing to do with the 341. The survey had revealed that there were 341 unlicensed ones. The target for 2011/12 had been to develop an action plan. The Department needed more funds so they could move forward in this area.

The Department explained that although the 50 officials had been trained as EMIs, they were still waiting to be designated by MECs. The Director General added that the Department trained the EMIs but designation was a matter between MECs and Mayors. The Department had discussed the matter with the relevant authorities.

Ms Manganye asked if the Department was involved in mining at all and if there was any enforcement on mining in terms of the environment. She related that her village had 15 mines surrounding it and they were health hazards to the villagers. But no one was really doing anything about it.

Ms McCourt said that the mining process was only covered by the Petroleum Act overseen by the Department of Mineral Resources with DEA as a commenting authority. This was one industry that the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) did not apply to. The need for integration existed as environmental impact assessments were required for some of the activities. The DEA was interacting with the Chamber of Mines on how to take the issue forward. The problem was that the transition had never happened because the old Petroleum Act never changed.

Mr De Lange said that the Department needed to find the balance around mining and the environment as the President’s State of the Nation Address referred to mining as a big area of growth but the speech was also strong on the environment. The country needed one policy on the environment as there were also strong lobby groups who wanted to keep the status quo on mines and not consider the environment.

Mr De Lange advised the Department to start drafting a report of its interaction with the municipalities detailing which ones had been done and which ones still needed assistance so that one could measure the policy environment. The Committee needed to make an assessment and a report would help.

Ms McCourt explained that there were a lot of vacancies to be filled because the Department really took the Committee’s recommendations seriously to use fewer consultants and use their own staff.

Mr De Lange said that this was an excellent answer.

Mr De Lange said that the Committee was happy overall with what they had heard from the Department as they could see the value of where things were going. He reminded the Department that the Committee needed the diagram of its international obligations.

The meeting was adjourned.

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