Meeting SummaryThe Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) presented its 2012 Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan to the Committee. The mandate of this Department was derived from the Constitutional requirement that the country maintain a safe and healthy environment. The strategic plans were linked to government priorities, but in 2012 the DEA intended to strengthen interventions in the health sector in relation to poor indoor air quality and poor waste management, which led, respectively, to respiratory diseases and diarrhea and other water-borne disease. In the education field, it would target schools and higher education institutions. It aimed to strengthen compliance and enforcement initiatives, and in the human settlements field it aimed to make provision for basic waste services. Overall, it would run programmes in climate change adaptation and resilience, and contribute to elimination of poverty through its Green Fund, Green Cities and expanded public works programme initiatives. Its first main strategic goal had to do with conservation and sustainable use of environmental assets. The second looked at achieving enhanced socio-economic benefits and employment creation for the present and future generations, from a healthy environment. The last goal aimed to have a fully-capacitated department that could deliver its services efficiently and effectively.
The priorities for each of the programmes were described. Specific highlights included the DEA developing and implementing environmental management instruments to assist provinces and municipalities, and aiming for less waste that was better managed. A number of strategies were indicated for ocean and coastal environments, and research, observation and monitoring would strengthen national science programmes. Climate change needed to be managed effectively, using both long-term adaptation and sector-risk analysis studies, whilst South Africa was also committed to contributing to global efforts to stabilise greenhouse gas, through implementing climate change response policy interventions. Cleaner air quality would be achieved through the National Air Quality Indicator and air quality monitoring stations. In the biodiversity field, there would be active protection and mitigation of threats, improved management of protected areas and development of legislative tools to protect species and ecosystems, as well as implementation of sustainable natural resource based projects. DEA was aiming at transformation of the biodiversity sector, and facilitation of co-management agreements. Job creation efforts would focus on women, youth and people with disabilities, and would include restoring and maintaining ecosystems through rehabilitation of wetlands, planting of indigenous trees and the restoration and rehabilitation of land.
Members noted that during their oversight visits they had heard many complaints about the environment and noted that the DEA was not visible in rural areas, also asking about the green economy in rural areas. A COPE Member noted his concerns about the drop in budget allocations, despite the fact that some of the projects were of prime importance, and asked for more details on how the new vessel would be maintained, as well as the involvement of the South African National Defence Force in combating poaching. Another Member wanted to know what the allocations were for National Coastal Management, the numbers of vacancies in the Department, and rehabilitation and drainage of mines. Two Members asked if medical waste was under control, reporting problems in Free State and KwaZulu Natal. Members also wanted to know the budget for the Green Climate Fund, more detail on concepts such as carbon tax, whether the efforts at combating rhino poaching were successful, whether programmes were run for unemployed graduates, and more detail on assistance to municipalities. In view of time constraints, written answers would be given.
Department of Environmental Affairs 2012 Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan
Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General, Department of Environmental Affairs, briefly outlined the role and functions of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA or the Department), and set out its vision and mission (see attached presentation). The DEA derived its mandate from section 24(b) of the Constitution, which set out that all South Africans had a constitutional right to a clean environment that was not harmful to their health or well-being, and that the environment must be protected, for the benefit of present and future generations.
Ms Ngcaba noted that various pieces of legislation governed the Department’s operational mandate, which she described (see attached presentation). These regulated and protected environmental resources in general, world heritage sites, protected areas, air quality, management and conservation of biodiversity, regulated waste management, and coastal management.
The DEA divided its work into six programmes. Programme 1: Administration provided strategic leadership, centralised administration and executive support, corporate services and facilitatation of effective co-operative governance, international relations, environmental education and awareness. Programme 2: Environmental Quality and Protection protected and improved the quality and safety of the environment to give effect to the right of all South Africans to an environment that was not harmful to their health and wellbeing. Programme 3: Oceans and Coastal Management ensured that government, industry and the public were informed, supported and regulated to act responsibly to conserve the ocean and coastal environment as well as to honour South Africa’s local and global obligations. Programme 4: Climate Change promoted, coordinated and managed an effective national mitigation and adaptation response to climate change. Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation promoted the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources to contribute to economic growth and poverty alleviation. Programme 6: Environmental Sector Programmes and Projects implemented environmental sector projects and assisted in job creation initiatives.
Ms Ngcaba noted that the strategic planning of the Department was linked to the key government priorities. The DEA would continue with implementation of programmes linked to all priority areas. However, it noted the intention to intensify interventions in some areas that still posed challenges. In the health arena, a large proportion of child mortality was still linked to poor indoor air quality, and manifested in respiratory illnesses, or in poor waste management practices that gave rise to diarrhoea and water-borne diseases. In the education sector, the DEA aimed to implement its Sector Human Capital Development Strategy, with targeted interventions at schools and higher education institutions. It would also intensify its efforts to fight against crime and corruption, by strengthening compliance and enforcement initiatives, promoting and upholding all DEA values. In the human settlements area, the DEA intended to finalise and implement the outcomes of the Waste Services Study, by making provision for basic waste services, and it would also run programmes in climate change adaptation and resilience. Overall, the DEA would also contribute to the national development plan that focused on the elimination of poverty and inequality through targeted measures by the Green Fund, Green Cities and EPWP programmes.
Ms Ngcaba noted that the DEA had three prime strategic goals for 2012/13 to 2016/17. The first goal concentrated on environmental assets that had to be conserved, valued, used in a sustainable manner, and continually enhanced. The second goal looked at achieving enhanced socio-economic benefits and employment creation for the present and future generations, from a healthy environment. The last goal aimed to have a fully-capacitated department that could deliver its services efficiently and effectively.
Ms Ngcaba then set out the priorities for each of the programmes (see attached presentation for full details). She highlighted, in respect of Programme 2, improved compliance with environmental legislation, and noted targets for processing and investigating complaints and incidents. The DEA aimed to manage the potential negative impacts of all significant developments by developing and implementing environmental management instruments to assist provinces and municipalities. It also aimed to have less, and better managed, waste, to bring into effect Chapter 4 of the Waste Act.
The strategic objective for Programme 3 priorities included the establishment of management frameworks and mechanisms for the ocean and coastal environment, including development of various policies and management strategies. DEA would run relief voyages to Antarctica and Islands, formulate an oil pollution emergency response, increase estuary management, and coastline under protection, and come up with management plans for marine protected species. DEA also aimed to strengthen national science programmes for integrated oceans and coastal management through research on coastal and marine top predators, observation and a monitoring network.
Ms Ngcaba noted that the Programme 4 priorities included climate change, and said it was necessary to manage the impact of climate change effectively, through long term adaptation scenarios studies and sector risk analysis studies. South Africa was committed to making a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise Green House Gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere, and this would be facilitated through the implementation of climate change response policy interventions. A National monitoring and evaluation system for climate change actions would be developed and implemented through Climate Change Monitoring and Evaluation system/framework. The last strategic objective of the programme was concerned with achieving cleaner and healthy air, through the National Air Quality Indicator and air quality monitoring stations reporting to South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS).
Programme 5 aimed overall to conserve biodiversity, and this would be done by protection and mitigation of threats, improving management of protected areas and developing legislative tools to ensure the protection of species and ecosystems. DEA also aimed for sustainable usage and regulation of biological resources, by implementation of sustainable natural resource based projects. Finally, DEA was aiming to ensure fair access and equitable sharing of benefits from biological resources promotion through the transformation of the biodiversity sector, and facilitation of co-management agreements.
Programme 6 aimed to create jobs and work opportunities for women, youth and people with disabilities, thereby achieving socio-economic benefits. This programme also looked at restoring and maintaining the ecosystem through the rehabilitation of wetlands, planting of indigenous trees and the restoration and rehabilitation of land.
Ms Ngcaba concluded by summarising the proposed policy initiatives and performance targets, and noting that these were focused on key priority areas in coastal provinces like Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Western Cape.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had done a lot of oversight work, and during this had heard many complaints about the environment. She asked what the Department’s programmes were actually achieving, noting that the Department was not visible in rural towns, but seemed only to be concentrating on the bigger cities.
Mr O De Beer (Western Cape, COPE) was concerned that there was a decline in the number of programmes, but an increase in allocations to some key priority programmes. For example, the Oceans and Coastal Management Programme showed a budget decrease of almost 75%, despite the fact that a new vessel had been acquired to assist with combating poaching and he questioned whether the Department had budgeted for any maintenance on that vessel, and, if not, where it hoped to get funding should the vessel need repairs or maintenance.
Mr de Beer noted that although the problems of climate change were worsening, this was not reflected in the budget allocations for this programme, which had dropped by 77%, and he thought this was not correct, given that climate change was a serious topic throughout the world.
Mr de Beer appreciated the 32% budget increase in environmental sector programmes and projects which drove poverty alleviation and employment creation. However, he questioned how the Department had arrived at the 3% increase for the Biodiversity and Conservation programme. He asked for clarification with regard to budget allocations in general. He also wondered if the Department would be able to meet its constitutional obligations with the current budget, noting that it needed sufficient resources to do its work.
Mr de Beer also asked what the DEA had budgeted for the anti-poaching programme, pointing out that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was also a role player.
Mr D Worth (Free State, DA) asked what was happening to the ships that were docking at Simonstown.
He also asked how much was allocated for National Coastal Management and whether it fell under DEA.
Mr Worth was interested to hear how many vacancies there were at present in the Department.
He asked whether medical waste was under control, noting that in Free State there had allegedly been wholesale dumping of the medical waste.
Mr Worth took note of the fact that Harmony Gold Mine had been drained and rehabilitated and said that should happen to other mines as well. He asked how much money was allocated to ensure that mines did rehabilitate properly, and asked where mine drainage was currently happening.
Mr Worth asked how much money had been budgeted for the Green Climate Fund, as he saw no mention of a specific allocation to it. He wanted more detail on concepts such as carbon tax.
Mr G Mokgoro (Northern Cape, ANC) asked if DEA was losing the battle on rhino poaching, or if it was managing to protect the species. It seemed that the more the DEA intensified its efforts, so would the poachers increase their poaching activities. He wondered if the DEA had studied how the poaching was happening, if there were inside opportunities or loopholes of which poachers were taking advantage.
Mr Mokgoro also asked about medical waste from health institutions, noting that the Committee had witnessed a dumping spot in KwaZulu Natal still apparently operating, with trucks arriving and not being checked, despite the DEA’s reports that it was closed.
Ms N Magadla (KwaZulu Natal, ANC) appreciated the Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWP) of this Department, saying that this drove job creation. However, she asked if there were also any programmes for unemployed graduates.
Ms Magadla also praised the Department for the preparation it did for the climate change conference in the previous year.
Ms Magadla asked how far South Africa was in introducing and implementing the Green Economy in rural areas. She also noted how the DEA intended to assist provinces and municipalities that had insufficient capacity.
The Chairperson noted that Members had to attend a plenary session shortly, and therefore asked that the questions be responded to in writing. She also noted that, in view of the insufficient time, the presentation by the Department of Water Affairs on its Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan would have to be postponed. She also noted that the consideration and adoption of Committee Minutes would have to stand over to another meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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