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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #2007/01 2541034
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101034Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5655
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 5987
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 0138
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 8346

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 PRETORIA 002007

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, AUGUST 2008

PRETORIA 00002007 001.2 OF 004


1. (U) Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science and
Technology Monthly Briefings newsletter, August 2008, Volume 3,
Number 8, prepared by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

Topics of the newsletter:

-- AFRICAN PENGUINS ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION

-- DEAT LAUNCHES PLAN TO SAVE SEABIRDS

-- New AIR QUALITY MONITORS INSTALLED IN HOT SPOTS

-- DME WINS TURF BATTLE - MINING APPROVED
FOR WILD COAST DUNES

-- SUPER-THIN SOLAR PANEL PRODUCTION DELAYED

-- GREEN RATING SYSTEM FOR SA PROPERTY
MARKET LAUNCHED

-- ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT REGULATIONS
TO BE REVIEWED


-- ENGEN INVESTS IN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS

-- SA COMPANY ASSUMES LEAD IN
WASTE-TO-ENERGY CONVERSIONS

-- NORTH WEST PROVINCE PLANNING
NEW HUMAN EVOLUTION MUSEUM

-- MONTHLY FACTOID

African Penguins on the Brink of Extinction
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) The Sothern African Foundation for the Conservation of
Coastal Birds, (SAFCCB) has raised a warning about the accelerated
decrease in population numbers of the African penguin species.
SAFCCB Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Strauss stated that
scientific predictions indicate that current trends indicate that
the species could be extinct in the next 16 years. A 2007 census
recorded 31,000 breeding penguin pairs, while in 2008 the number
dropped to 26,000 pairs.
SAFCCB reports show that in the 1900s there were over 4 million
African penguins in the wild. The population numbers dropped to
450,000 in 1950 and further down to 200,000 in the year 2000.


3. (U) The foundation has been rescuing birds affected by oil spills
on the Cape Town coast and is currently caring for over 80
dehydrated and emaciated penguins picked up in June and July.
Strauss attributes the dwindling penguin population to oil
pollution. She said 'oiled penguins are at risk because they cannot
swim or find food". The oil clumps the penguin's feathers together,
exposing their skin to cold sea water, putting their lives in
danger. According to Strauss, penguins are "an indicator species
whose status reflects the well being of marine ecosystem.

DEAT Launches Plan to Save Seabirds
------------------------------------

4. (U) Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) Head
of Research for Antarctica and Islands Dr. Johann Augustyn announced
that DEAT has launched its National Plan of Action for Reducing the
Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Long-line Fisheries (NPOA-Seabirds).
Dr. Augustyn announced the NPOA in the Western Cape in late August
during his opening speech to the Agreement on the Conservation of
Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) advisory meeting. Over 18,000 birds
are reported killed annually because of incidental catches during
long-line fishing. Augustyn said that by-catch studies indicate
that long-line catches are responsible the declining populations and
threatened the conservation status of many species. According to
Augustyn "Thirteen of these recorded species are currently
threatened with extinction resulting from factors such as the
deterioration of breeding grounds for many albatrosses and petrels".
The recent incidental killing of over 28 albatross and petrel
species prompted DEAT to develop its NPOA.

New Air Quality Monitors Installed in Hot Spots
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. (U) DEAT and the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Agriculture
Q5. (U) DEAT and the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Agriculture
and Land Affairs (DALA) installed new air quality monitoring
stations in a 31,106 square kilometer area encompassing the small

PRETORIA 00002007 002.2 OF 004


towns of Balfour, Middleburg, Standerton and Witbank. The region is
noted for its heavy industry operations, residential coal burning
and veld fires, all of which contribute to its severe air pollution.
DEAT Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi stated that the new air
quality monitoring stations will identify pollutants and the
specific areas from which they come. The stations will also detect
and measure pollutants such as benzine, carbon monoxide, lead, and
sulfur dioxide. The data collected will be made available to the
general public and to relevant stake holders such as the Air Quality
Officers Forum, a forum that includes representatives from priority
area municipalities.

6. (U) Mabudafhasi noted that once a polluter was identified,
especially the heavy industry companies, DEAT would present the
company with proof about its pollution levels. DEAT would then work
with companies to remedy the situation over a stipulated time frame.
She added that polluters could be subjected to fines or jail terms
if they were recalcitrant or ignored time frames. The monitoring
stations were installed at a cost of R1million ($134,000) each, with
the financial partnership of DALA and the Royal Danish Embassy.

DME Wins Turf Battle - Mining Approved
For Wild Coast Dunes
----------------------------------------

7. (U) A twelve-year old turf battle between the Department of
Minerals and Energy (DME) and the Department of Environmental
Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) ended in July when DME approved titanium
dune mining on the Wild Coast. The DME granted Australian mining
company Mineral Commodities (MRC) rights to extract titanium from
the Xolobeni Mineral Sands project located on the Indian Ocean
coast. The sand dunes are reported to contain over 346 metric tons
of titanium, with an estimated value of R11 billion ($1.46 billion).
DME spokesperson Sputnik Ratau was adamant that decisions on mining
applications should not be driven "only by environmental issues".
DEAT and an environmental group Sustaining the Wild Coast maintain
that the mining project could cause irreparable harm to the
ecosystem, which includes international recognized unique biomes.
They are also concerned that the environmental, land, and mineral
rights of local inhabitants will be violated. Some commentators
believe that this victory could be DME's last one because the
National Environmental Management Act will soon be amended to make
DEAT the ultimate authority to oversee mining applications.

Super-Thin Solar Panel Production Delayed
------------------------------------------

8. (U) Production equipment problems have stalled manufacturing
South Africa's super-thin solar panels. Commercial production was
set to commence earlier this year this year at a Brandenburg,
Germany plant, but has now been rescheduled for October or November.
University of Johannesburg (UJ) Professor Vivian Alberts lead the
research team that invented this solar panel. The South African
panel is only five micrometers thick compared to the common 350
micrometer thick panel. Experts believe that the thin silicon-free
panel layered with semiconductor materials like copper, indium,
gallium, or selenium is more effective in absorbing solar energy.
Alberts and the UJ formed the Photovoltaic Technology Intellectual
Property (PTIP) company, which then teamed with Germany's IFE Thin
Film for financial, licensing, technical and production capacities.
QFilm for financial, licensing, technical and production capacities.
The project is expected to produce about 450,000 panels a year. A
local plant in Paarl, Western Cape province is envisioned for the
future.

Green Rating System for SA Property
Market Launched
--------------------------------------
9. (U) The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) will
launch the first environmental rating system for the country's
property market (Green Star South Africa) at its inaugural
conference in November 2-4, 2008. The rating system is modeled on
the Australian, UK and U.S. systems. GBCSA CEO Nicolas Douglas said
Green Star SA will have several distinctive rating tools for
different property sectors such as residential, office and public
buildings, hotels, and shopping centers. The first phase of the
ratings system will target office buildings. Council Chairman Bruce
Kerswell said "Green Star is a crucial first step in bringing an
effective, industry-driven initiative to South Africa". Douglas
noted that international experience has shown that green buildings
have higher rents, better occupancy rates, and perform better
operationally

Environment Impact Assessment Regulations
to be Reviewed
------------------------------------------


PRETORIA 00002007 003.2 OF 004


10. (U) The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
is studying its current Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA)
process to "review the efficiency and effectiveness of EIA as a tool
for environmental management in South Africa". Energy, mining and
infrastructure development companies have complained that the EIA
process is slow and cumbersome. NGOs feel that the process is
non-inclusive and not responsive to dissent. EIA regulations were
first enacted as part of the National Environmental Management Act
107 of 1998. Amendments were put into effect in July 2006 following
a review of the initial process and procedures. DEAT's goal is to
make certain that environmental impacts are considered before
decisions are implemented. DEAT anticipates releasing the results
of this study at an EIA conference in November 2008.

Engen Invests in Environmental Improvements
--------------------------------------------

11. (U) Durban-based petroleum refinery and fuel supply group Engen
claimed to have spent over R60 million ($7.8 million) on
environmental improvements over the last decade and to have reduced
its emissions by 60%. Engen Managing Director Willem Oosthuizen
described the investment as a part of Engen's efforts to receive an
ISO 14001 certificate. The ISO 14001 is administered and enforced
by the South African Bureau of Standards, and requires rigorous site
emissions audits. Each plant must create a monitoring system to
track potential negative environmental impacts to comply with the
ISO process. Oosthuizen said it was a "milestone that was part of a
journey which Engen started in 1999 when the refinery started
voluntary emission reductions." Community Liaison Forum's
Environmental Representative Lawrence Vartharajulu congratulated
Engen and noted that there was still room for improvement.

SA Company Assumes Lead in
Waste-to-Energy Conversions
----------------------------

12. (U) Gauteng-based industrial heating specialist company Prestige
Thermal (PT) successfully installed the world's largest pyorolysis
waste-to-energy plant in seven months, compared to the usual 12 - 18
months. Sales and Marketing Director Mark Potgieter said PT's
unique technology converts many different materials, unlike most
technology which can only convert one type of material. Potgieter
commented: "There has been a lot of global competition towards this
technology, but ours is the world's first commercially-viable,
full-scale, waste-to-energy conversion plant." The plant cost over
R28 million ($3.68 million) and its production capacity is estimated
at 3 MW of energy from every three tons of calorific waste.
Potgieter noted that the company currently has no agreements that
would allow PT's technology to contribute to the national
electricity grid. The company has received interest from European
companies. Potgieter says the technology is especially useful for
countries looking for alternative non-landfill solutions for the
management of municipal waste. He noted that the PT technology is
reducing landfill sites in the UK by 70% in areas where it is in
use. PT has been involved in waste-to-energy technology for over
six years.


North West Province Planning
New Human Evolution Museum
-------------------------------------------
13. (U) North West provincial officials and Wits University
academics recently agreed to collaborate on launching a new museum
Qacademics recently agreed to collaborate on launching a new museum
in an isolated corner of North West province. The Taung Skeleton, a
fossil found in 1924 near Taung, (about 100 kilometers from
Kimberley) will be the drawing card. The museum will be located
near the lime works quarry where the skull was found. NW Province
Department of Economic Development and Tourism MSC Darken Africa
said that the museum will depict the history of the skull and all
the other artifacts discovered in the quarry. The Taung Child (as
the complete skeleton is known) will remain at Wits. Africa said
that security, climate and other factors did not make it feasible to
display the skull, which will instead be represented by casts
supplied by the University.
14. (U) The Taung Skull was discovered by a quarry worker and was
delivered to Raymond Dart, an anatomist at Wits who recognized its
significance. Dart described it as a new species, an
Australopithecus Africanus. Wits University Anatomy and Human
Biology Professor Emeritus Philip Tobias noted, "It was the first
discovery in Africa of an ancient member of the family of man and
has switched the spotlight of ancient human ancestry from Asia to
Africa for the first time." Tobias has worked in the quarry since
the 1980's and said sampling in the quarry has Tobias has worked in
the quarry since the 1980's and said sampling in the quarry has
established that the site was occupied during a number of periods
from the Pleistocene to the San/Bushman. Tobias commented that this

PRETORIA 00002007 004.2 OF 004


meant that Taung has a "nearly unique record of the difference
stages of human evolution.
Monthly Factoid
15. (U) South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world at the
Vredefort Dome near Parys in the Free State province.
www.southafrica.co.za
Bost

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