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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4969
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 5764
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9953
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 8167

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 PRETORIA 001453

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, JUNE 2008

PRETORIA 00001453 001.2 OF 004


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

Topics of the newsletter:
-- GLOBE PROGRAM BRINGS 500 STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND SCIENTISTS
TOGETHER IN CAPE TOWN
-- SA TO DEVELOP BATTERY- POWERED CAR
-- SA COMPANIES TO INCREASE SUBMISSIONS OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
DATA

-- MUNICIPALITIES HOLD CLIMATE CHANGE SUMMIT

-- SA TO PRIORITIZE BIOSAFETY

-- SOLAR-POWERED CARS TO RACE IN SA

-- AUSTARALIA AND SA TO DISCONTINUE COLLABORATIONS ON RADIO
ASTRONOMY

-- ORGANIZED CRIME RESPONSIBLE FOR RHINO POACHING

-- MONDI AND WWF JOIN HANDS FOR WETLANDS CONSERVATION

-- SOUTH AFRICA'S NEWEST WORLD HERITAGE SITE THREATENED

-- DROUGHT FORCING KAROO FARMERS TO SELL

-- FACTOID

End Summary.

GLOBE Program Brings 500 Students, Teachers and
Scientist Together in Cape Town
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (U) GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the
Environment) brought together over 500 students, teachers and
scientists from 51 different countries to participate in the
quadrennial GLOBE Learning Expedition in Cape Town June 22-17, 2008.
Students from Cameroon, Lebanon, and the U.S. gave the youth
keynote speeches; Jane Goodall Institute (South Africa) Rescue
Director Eugene Cussons provided the keynote speech. Guest speakers
included scientists and professors from U. S. government agencies,
U.S. universities and the University of Cape Town. Cape Town Consul
General Helen LaLime provided welcoming remarks. Students presented
research programs in four thematic areas: 1) Health and Environment;
2) Water Quality and Availability; 3) Regional Impacts of Climate
Change; and 4) Earth Systems Projects. Students conducted field
studies at various locations in the Cape Town region and presented
cultural programs highlighting their respective countries. Embassy
EST Officer provided support.
3. (U) GLOBE is an interagency U.S. government program funded by the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the
National Science Foundation (NSF), supported by the U.S. Department
of State, and implemented through a cooperative agreement between
NASA and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
in Boulder, Colorado. GLOBE is a cooperative effort of schools in
partnership with colleges and universities, state and local school
systems, and non-government organizations. GLOBE has bilateral
agreements between the United States and over 100 countries. Each
country manages and supports its national and regional programs.
GLOBE functions as a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary
school-based science and education program, working in partnership
with NASA and the NSF Earth System Science Projects (ESSPs). GLOBE
began operations on Earth Day 1994.
SA to Develop Battery-Powered Car
----------------------------------

4. (U) South Africa is developing battery-powered passenger and
utility vehicles. The first prototype is expected to be launched by
the end of 2008. Department of Science and Technology (DST) Deputy
Minister Derrick Hanekom announced the project during his budget
vote speech in parliament. Hanekom stated that the
environmentally-friendly car would mitigate the pollution from
fossil fuels and reduce South Africa's economic vulnerability to oil
Qfossil fuels and reduce South Africa's economic vulnerability to oil
prices. He said the project was a concerted effort between various
stakeholders, including universities and the auto industry.

5. (U) DST Group Executive Officer Dr. Boni Mehlomakulu added that
the six-passenger car will have a speed-determined range of between
100 km and 400 km and would be fitted with roof solar panels to
enable the battery to charge either when parked in the sun or
plugged into the electricity grid. The project is funded from DST's
Innovation Fund. An additional R300 million ($38.9 million) will be
required to build a manufacturing plant to produce the vehicles.

PRETORIA 00001453 002.2 OF 004


Mehlomakulu said manufacturing would commence by 2010, with the
first 4,000 units targeted for the South Africa government fleet.
Additional production would be determined by demand and interest
shown by investors.

SA Companies to Increase Submission of Greenhouse
Gas Emissions Data
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. (U) Over fifty South African companies are expected to disclose
information about their carbon emissions, which will be incorporated
into the world's largest databank of greenhouse gases (GHG) later
this year. The exercise dubbed the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)
was launched in 2007, with an initial target of 40 South African
companies. The CDP project includes GHG accounting for emissions,
management, reduction and costs. Although 40 companies were
targeted in 2007, only 15 provided quantitative data on emissions.
The South African CDP project is managed by Incite Sustainability
and the National Business Institute. Officials from those entities
observed that many companies have started to acknowledge that their
carbon footprint issue affects business. South African firms in the
agriculture sector and wine production are already feeling the
pressure exerted by importers and retailers, who demand to know the
size the exporters' carbon footprint. Incite Sustainability's John
Hanks said the CDP has received 28 companies' responses for 2008.
Twenty-one companies requested extensions, while another eight
confirmed their intention to respond. Targeted corporations include
Sasol, BHP Billiton and Anglo-American.

Municipalities Hold Climate Change Summit
-----------------------------------------
7. (U) South African municipal officials and other stakeholders met
in mid-June to discuss the need to coordinate plans and strategies
to combat climate change. Summit delegates adopted a declaration
encouraging clearer carbon aims and strategies for municipalities.
City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Amos Masondo pointed out that
local government was in the front line for implementation and
services delivery, and therefore it needed to pursue mitigation and
adaptation strategies vigorously. He encouraged other cities to
play active roles in mitigation against climate change. Masondo
advised cities to establish partnerships with local communities, the
private sector and NGOs.
8. (U) Masondo noted that the City of Johannesburg had already
enacted climate change initiatives, including reducing coal-based
energy consumption, retrofitting all municipality buildings,
introducing energy efficient resources in households and planting
trees. City of Johannesburg Official Prema Naidoo added that
cities should make environmental management central to their
planning, especially for public-initiated projects. Buffalo City
Mayor Zintle Peters added that climate change required champions at
the local level and that the success of the climate changes projects
depended on political will and commitment.
SA to Prioritize Bio-Safety
---------------------------

9. (U) Department of Agriculture (NDOA) Biosafety Directorate
Officer Chantal Arendse told attendees at the Public Understanding
of Biotechnology (PUB) seminar that South Africa is making serious
strides to ensure that bio-safety is a priority. The PUB was
established by the Department of Science and Technology to raise
awareness among the public and to ensure a balanced understanding of
Qawareness among the public and to ensure a balanced understanding of
the potential of biotechnology. Arendse said the government is
"committed to ensure that all activities pertaining to GM0s are
carried out in a responsibly and a reasonably safe way." Arendse
noted that there is no clear labeling and segregation between GMO
and non-GMO products, but the NDOA is developing relevant
procedures. He informed that South Africa already grows GM cotton,
maize and Soya. He said the South African government would begin
soon to prioritize GM research in accordance with the annual
increases in global GM crop planting of twelve percent in 2006 and
2007.

Solar-Powered Cars to Race in SA
--------------------------------

10. (U) The Advanced Energy Foundation (AEF) is organizing an
international solar-powered car race in SA in September 2008. Teams
planning to participate in "The Solar Challenge" are already in the
process of designing and building solar-powered vehicles. The
vehicles are expected to have the capability to reach between 80km
and 100km per hour without external assistance. AEF Head Winston
Jordaan said the event would be an opportunity to showcase
cutting-edge solar technology innovations from around the world.
Jordaan also noted that to win the contest, racers needed advanced
technological prowess combined with exceptional strategy and
tactics. Participants would set out on a 4,175 km long-distance

PRETORIA 00001453 003.2 OF 004


race around the country, starting and finishing in Pretoria at the
Innovation Hub. Two entrants will represent South Africa while
other participants are expected to come from Australia, Holland, and
the U.S.

Australia and SA Discontinue Collaboration
in Radio Astronomy
-------------------------------------------

11. (U) Australia and South Africa recently agreed to discontinue
their collaboration in the development of a radio astronomy software
program known as the Convergent Radio Astronomy Demonstrator
(Conrad). Australia and South Africa had established Conrad in 2006
to develop software for the South Africa Karoo Array Telescope
(MeerKat) and the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder
(ASKA). The software technology requirements for the two projects
had begun to diverge, seeking different software development
approaches and data processing. The parties also received
larger-than-expected funding, which allows them to pursue software
development independently. The two parties will continue to share
relevant information.

12. (U) Both countries are the front-runners in the bid to host the
multi-billion-dollar Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope,
which will be 50-times more sensitive than current telescopes.
Meerkat and ASKA are the precursors to the SKA project. The Conrad
Telescope Operating System, developed by the two countries, is
currently operating South Africa's MeerKat prototype dish at the
Haartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory, west of Pretoria.


Organized Crime Responsible for Rhino Poaching
--------------------------------------------- -


13. (U) Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
Marthinus Van Schalkwyk said in his budget speech to Parliament in
June that illegal hunting for rhino and trade in rhino has
increased. The Minister advised that twenty-seven rhino had been
poached in the Kruger National Park over the last two years, with
other incidents reported in different areas in the country. Both
black and white rhino are listed as protected species and trade in
rhino and their products is regulated internationally. The Minister
linked escalating poaching activities to organized crime,
emphasizing that this was a serious cause for concern. The Minister
said prospective hunters applied for permits, but the hunts never
actually occur. Van Schalkwyk said this allows permit holders to
legally export illegally obtained rhino horn as trophies. He noted
that the authorities were partly to blame for poor policing, and
added that "without enforcement of compliance, environmental
legislation was worth no more than the paper it is written on".

Mondi and WWF Join Hands for Wetlands Conservation
--------------------------------------------- -----

14. (U) Forest company Mondi has signed a five-year extension
agreement continuing their World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
partnership for wetlands conservation in South Africa. The parties
have developed the Mondi Wetlands Program (MWP) which is committed
to delineating and protecting all wetlands on land owned by Mondi.
They also plan to remove all commercially-planted tress. Mondi is
providing R20 million ($2.5 million) for implementation of the
project. MWP Manager David Lindley noted that it was imperative to
rehabilitate and manage the country's wetland more wisely. He said
"failure to do so could result in the country having less pure
Q"failure to do so could result in the country having less pure
water, increased flooding, lower agricultural productivity and more
endangered species".

15. (U) Mondi Natural Resources Manager Peter Gardiner stated that
the industry was losing nearly 1.4 million tons of timber per year.
He added that his company owned 25% of the industry and thus lost
about R200 million ($25 million). Gardiner said that over 70
percent of wetlands are located on privately owned land, and 55
percent of the country's wetlands have been impacted by poor land
management.

South Africa's Newest World Heritage
Site Threatened
------------------------------------

16. (U) White Rivers Exploration, an Australian mining company, has
applied for prospecting rights on 80 farms in the Vredefort Dome
area. Most of the land in this area is privately owned. Vredefort
Dome is believed to be the largest and most ancient meteorite impact
site on earth. It was declared a World Heritage Site by the UN
Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in July

PRETORIA 00001453 004.2 OF 004


2005. (It is South Africa's 7th World heritage Site.)
Vredefort Dome Conservancy Chairman Stephen de la Harpe stated that
there is no reason to allow prospecting as mining will not be
allowed in a World Heritage Site. He noted that gold reserves do
exist in the area, but the gold is fragmented due to the meteor
impact. De la Harpe said only open cast-mining would be
economically feasible, and this type of mining would destroy the
biodiversity of the site. Free State Department of Environmental
Affairs and Tourism Conservation Coen Erasmus said prospecting would
not pose a threat since only boreholes would be drilled to determine
geological strata. He agreed that mining would never be allowed.
Vredefort Dome faces other environmental challenges, including
pollution from sewage in the Vaal River and increasing development
along its borders. Visitors also chip away at the delicate shatter
cone rocks.
17. (U) South African government officials dismiss rumors that the
site will be declared "threatened" during an upcoming UNESCO World
Heritage Committee meeting. The South African government has not
yet confirmed the site's status as a World Heritage Site under South
African law. Erasmus said that the government "hoped" to confirm
the site's status by December.
Drought Forcing Karoo Farmers to Sell
--------------------------------------
18. (U) Four years of drought have forced many Karoo farmers to put
their farms and sheep ranches up for sale. Farmers have reduced the
size of their sheep flocks and have tried to sell shares in flocks
to help pay feed bills. One farmer noted that he had brought his
sheep from the veld and placed them in kraals for their survival.
He emphasized that a birthing ewe will abandon a lamb if she has no
milk. Other farmers have sent their flocks as far as Mossel bay and
Beaufort West.
19. (U) Farmers in several meat- and wool-producing towns have moved
out of the Karoo, heading for towns or other areas not affected by
drought. Retail sectors have also felt the impact. Stores are
laying off employees; shopkeepers report that sales are down and
long-time customers are behind in payments. Nation Red Meat
Producers Organization CEO Gerhard Schutte said the drought would
not impact South Africa's supply of red meat as South Africa is a
net importer of red meat. Western Cape Agricultural Director for
Sustainable Resource Management Andre Roux said that
drought-stricken farmers received government assistance last year.
He added that those funds have been depleted and applications for
assistance this year have not been successful. Pam Golding
Properties Realtor Wayne Rubidge noted that not all news was bad for
Karoo farmers. He said that a number of farms had been converted to
hunting and several farms had been sold to "lifestyle buyers."


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

20 (U) The Trans-frontier Park set in South Africa, Mozambique and
Zimbabwe in a world first. The 38,600 square kilometer park is
bigger than the Yellow Stone Park in the US, and bigger than
Switzerland, Belgium or Taiwan.
Bost

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