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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #1057/01 1401321
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191321Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4496
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 5610
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9826
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 8044

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PRETORIA 001057

DEPT FOR OES/PCI, OES/ENV, AND AF/S
DEPT PASS EPA/OIA,

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SOCI ETRD SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY MONTHLY
BRIEFINGS, APRIL 2008

PRETORIA 00001057 001.2 OF 003


1. (U) Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science and
Technology Monthly Briefings newsletter, April 2008, Volume 3,
Number 4, prepared by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

Topics of the newsletter:
-- EMBASSY PRETORIA AND PARTNERS CELEBRATE EARTH DAY
-- POWER SWITHCHED OFF TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY
-- ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES CONVICTIONS INCREASE

-- DEAT REJECTS TITANIUM MINING ON THE BEACH

-- WATER ALGAE KILLS KRUGER ANIMALS

-- AIRLINE ON MISSION TO REDUCE CARBORN EMISSIONS

-- FROM E-WASTE TO ART AND JEWELRY

-- FACTOID

End Summary.


Embassy Pretoria and Partners Celebrate Earth Day
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (U) The United States Embassy in Pretoria teamed up for the first
time with the Pretoria-based World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the
National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG) to celebrate Earth
Day on April 22, 2008. Invitees from the local municipality,
national government, NGOs, academia, research institutions and the
media attended the event, hosted by the NZG. The Embassy also
arranged for three schools from the Pretoria townships of
Eersterust, Garankuwa and Mamelodi to visit the aquarium and the
zoo. The NZG Executive Director emphasized the need to intensify
environmental awareness among people, so they can begin to notice
the impact of their daily activities on the environment and,
ultimately, the earth. He said this way people could then take
corrective measures to remedy their profligate use of the earth and
its resources. Invitees saw a documentary about the Galapagos
Islands, "Born of Fire", listened to a speech by the Deputy Press
Attach on the background and history of Earth Day celebrations.
African Association of Zoos and Aquaria Executive Director Dave
Morgan made a presentation about the "Year of the Frog and Amphibian
Crisis". The event concluded with a panel discussion on topics
relating to climate change, pollution, etc.

Power Switched Off to Celebrate Earth Day
-----------------------------------------

3. (U) South African National Parks (SANParks) celebrated Earth Day
(April 22, 2008) by switching off power for three hours in most of
their offices across South Africa. SANParks Chief Operating Officer
Sidney Soundy said that switching off the power was SANParks way of
demonstrating that they cared about the environment and were
committed to combating climate change. Soundy noted that SANParks
was "working to create a resilient and sustainable environment" and
encouraging staff to embrace environmental ethics. Turning off the
power for two hours at SANParks headquarters in Pretoria saved
16.6kW of electricity. ESKOM, the national power company, commented
that conserving electricity is the first step to reducing carbon
emissions.

Environmental Crimes Convictions Increase
-----------------------------------------

4. (U) Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
Marthinus Van Schalkwyk reported at the 8th International Network
for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) conference that
both reporting and effective prosecution of environmental crimes is
increasing in South Africa. The Minister attributed the increase to
DEAT's enforcement wing, also known as the "Green Scorpions". The
Green Scorpions' second annual report stated that they investigated
more than 1,756 cases in 2007/8 and that arrests have increased from
Qmore than 1,756 cases in 2007/8 and that arrests have increased from
898 in 2006/7 to 2,612 in 2007/8. Criminal convictions rose from
134 in 2006/8 to 746 in 2007/8, according to the report. Van
Schalkwyk said he remains troubled by the discrepancy between the
number of criminal arrests and the number of actual convictions for
environmental crimes. He noted that DEAT is finalizing an
agreement with enforcement officials which will allow Green
Scorpions to research and draft final documents and to present cases
to the National Prosecution Authority for final decisions on
prosecution. He added that the Green Scorpions still needed more
inspectors and more intense and deeper training to expand their
efforts.

PRETORIA 00001057 002.2 OF 003

DEAT Rejects Titanium Mining on the Coast
-----------------------------------------

5. (U) The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
opposes an Australian mining company's proposal to mine titanium in
the Xolobeni dunes of Port Edward south of Durban, on the border of
the Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape provinces. The Mineral
Commodities company (MRC) claims that the dunes contain the 10th
largest deposits of titanium, which could be worth over R10 billion
($1.3 billion). MRC argues that the operation could help eradicate
poverty by developing the area and creating job opportunities with
only small impacts on the environment. DEAT rejected MRC's
environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, citing deficiencies in
several aspects. For example, the report does not provide for dune
rehabilitation, waste storage and treatment, and the impacts of
various pollutants remains unclear.

6. (U) DEAT report classified the area as one of the highest
conservation priority areas. Under this classification only game
farming and conservation is allowed and all such activities are
limited to eco-tourism. A Department of Minerals and Energy
official complained that a compromise "win-win" situation could be
achieved if DEAT would stop trying to declare the entire coastline
off-limits for mining. An amendment to the National Environmental
Management Act establishing DEAT as the final appeals authority for
mining EIAs is under consideration by the government.


Water Algae Kills Kruger Animals
--------------------------------

7. (U) Animals in the Kruger National Park (KNP) have died from
drinking water contaminated with an extremely high concentration of
the blue green algae (cyano bacteria). KNP officials have been
forced to drain all the water from the Silolweni dam to correct the
situation. Rangers collected five zebra carcasses and postmortems
on the animals revealed that they had died from drinking
contaminated water. Kruger Park Head of Conservation Management Dr.
Freek Venter said zebra deaths were the second case in twelve months
where algal poisoning has caused multiple animal deaths in the park.
The previous incident occurred in 2007 when more than 54 animals
died from algal poisoning. Dr. Venter noted that the large
concentration of algal poison was in part caused by the high
concentration of hippos in and around the dam. In an attempt to
solve the problem, Dr. Venter and his team lowered the water level
and burned the grass surrounding the dam to discourage the large
resident population of the black and white rhino species.

Airline on Mission to Reduce Carbon Emissions
---------------------------------------------

8. (U) Kulula, one of South Africa's low-cost airlines, partnered
with NGO Food and Trees for Africa (FTA) to plant more than fifty
trees in Monde Primary School in Katlehong Township, which lies to
the east of Johannesburg, to compensate for carbon emissions.
Kulula parent company Comair is phasing out its MD-82 aircraft fleet
and upgrading to Boeing 737 aircraft, which are more fuel-efficient
and could help to reduce emissions. Kulula encourages its
passengers to donate between R10 ($1.30) and R100 ($13.00) to
Project Green, an FTA initiative which has already planted thousands
of trees in disadvantaged communities over the past 18 years.
Comair CEO Gidon Novick said they have confidence that support will
QComair CEO Gidon Novick said they have confidence that support will
grow because environmental awareness is increasing in South Africa
and because the airline has over 600,000 visitors to its website per
month.

From E-Waste to Art and Jewelry
-------------------------------

9. (U) Electronic waste is increasingly becoming a problem in South
Africa. Western Cape-based Waste Plan has started retrieving
e-waste including used computers and other electronic gadgets and
transforming it into art, clocks and jewelry. Waste Plan Manager
Bertie Lourens explained that the company collects the e-waste,
removes reusable parts, processes those parts into new computers,
and sells those computers cheaply ($53). Lourens noted that the
company removes poisonous substances from the electronic gadgets and
disposes of it according to environment guidelines. The Waste Plan
recycling project is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard with an investment
of R640, 000 ($85,000).

Monthly Factoid
---------------

PRETORIA 00001057 003.2 OF 003

10. (U) South Africa is home to 10% of all flowering species. It is
also the only country to contain an entire plant kingdom (The 12
different plant divisions).

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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