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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #2501/01 3181453
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131453Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6417
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 6272
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 0411
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 8623

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 PRETORIA 002501

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, OCTOBER 2008

PRETORIA 00002501 001.2 OF 004


1. (U) Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science and
Technology Monthly Briefings Newsletter, October 2008, Volume 3,
Number 10, prepared by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

Topics of the newsletter:

-- LOCAL COMMUNITY GROUPS FIGHT SOUTH DURBAN PETROLEUM PIPELINE

-- SOUTHERN AFRICA AUCTIONS IVORY TO CHINA, JAPAN

-- SOUTH AFRICAN SCIENTISTS SCOOP TOP INTERNATIONAL AWARDS

-- ROBBEN ISLAND TO CULL 10,000 RABBITS

-- SOUTH AFRICANS VIEW CLILMATE CHANGE AS DISTANT THREAT

-- DME TO BEGIN REHABILITATE DEFUNCT MINES
-- MERCURY CONTAMINATES DAMS IN KZN
-- POLLUTION THREATENS SOUTH AFRICAN COASTLINES

-- COMAPANIES SET ASIDE LAND TO PRESERVE GRASSLANDS

-- JOHANNESBURG UPGRADES WATER SERVICES

-- SOUTH AFRICA TO CREATE DIGITAL REEF ATLAS

-- MONTHLY FACTOID

-------------------------------
Local Community Groups Fight
South Durban Petroleum Pipeline
-------------------------------

2. (U) South Durban community groups object to Transnet's plan to
establish a pipeline to transport petroleum products from coastal
refineries to inland locations. Durban South Communities
Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) representative Desmond D'sa noted
that there is heavy air pollution in local communities, and that
fifteen other conduit pipelines already pass through this area.
D'sa said that these pipelines carry hazardous products such as
benzene, putting South Durban residents at risk for asthma or
cancer. D'sa added that over forty pipeline leaks have been
recorded in South Durban since 1995. Transnet Public Relations
Manager Saret Knoetze said her company wants to build the pipeline
to deal with increased inland demand for petroleum products. She
advised that Transnet had consulted with all relevant parties
including SDCEA, and emphasized that Transnet felt it had obtained a
balanced and sound environmental evaluation. SDCEA has threatened
to file suit to stop the proposed pipeline project.

--------------------------------------------- -
Southern Africa Auctions Ivory to China, Japan
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (U) The first global legal ivory sales in nearly a decade were
held in late October at a special auction after the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES) authorized four African countries to make a once-off sale of
108 tons of ivory to Chinese and Japanese buyers. China and Japan
are the world's largest markets for ivory, which is used for
handicrafts and for families' traditional seals to stamp documents.
South Africa will hold the biggest sale (51 tons), followed by
Botswana (44 tons), Namibia (9 tons) and Zimbabwe (4 tons). The
ivory can only be sold to China and Japan, which then must track it
to prevent it from being resold overseas.

4. (U) CITES officials state they agreed to the once-off sale only
if sales were limited to those African countries with healthy
elephant populations. More than 312,000 elephants live in Southern
Africa. CITES officials also advised that most tusks were taken
from elephants that died from natural causes or from culling of
herds. The auctions, which are closed to the public and to media,
will sell only tusks from government stocks. CITES Secretary
General Willem Wijnstekers will supervise the sales. He will also
meet with Chinese and Japanese authorities regarding measures to
monitor the ivory after the sale. Profits from the sales must go
Qmonitor the ivory after the sale. Profits from the sales must go
toward elephant conservation projects, or toward programs aimed at
developing communities that live around elephant ranges.

5. (U) Some conservationists fear that the arrival of so much legal
ivory on the Chinese and Japanese markets would provide poachers
with an opportunity to smuggle illegal ivory past regulators.
International Fund for Animal Welfare Elephant Program Head Michael
Wamithi said China and Japan are the top destinations for illegal
ivory from poached elephants. Wamithi said: "Several multiple-ton
seizures have been made at Chinese ports in recent years. The lack

PRETORIA 00002501 002.2 OF 004


of enforcement for the registration systems in both countries
provides a convenient loophole for illegal traders." Wildlife
trade watchdog NGO Traffic said it has confidence in the auctions.


6. (U) Traffic South Africa National Representative David Newton
said, "As far as we're concerned, it's a well-managed process."
Newton added that Traffic believed China had made efforts to comply
with international ivory trade regulations. He stated, "We're
always urging caution, and the ivory trade needs to be very strictly
managed. For the one-off trade, we're confident that the monitoring
mechanisms are in place." International ivory trade was banned in
1989. CITES authorized South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe
to carry out occasional sales beginning in 1997 because CITES
believes elephant populations in those countries are strong. The
last sale in 1999 earned five million dollars. The four countries
agreed not to hold a new sale for at least another nine years.

------------------------------
South African Scientists Scoop
Top International Awards
------------------------------

7. (U) South African scientists won first and third places in the
2008 UN Environmental Programs (UNEP) Thesis Award on Migratory
Species Conservation. World Wildlife Fund (WWF - SA) biologist Dr.
Samantha Petersen took first place for her research on
"Understanding and Mitigating Vulnerable By-catch in Southern
African Trawl and Long-line Fisheries". That study focused on the
South African commercial fishing industry's impact on migratory
seabirds, sea turtles and sharks. Bird Life International's Dr.
Ross Wanless won third place for his investigation on the decline of
seabirds on South Africa's Gough Island. Dr. Wanless' research
revealed that mice were attacking and eating albatross chicks. The
competition included thirty-two candidates from eighteen other
countries. Second place was won by Dr. Lin Xia for his research on
the impact of traffic on Tibetan antelope migration. WWF-SA Chief
Executive Officer Dr. Morne Du Plessis noted the awards demonstrated
"not only the scientific expertise of WWF in South Africa, but also
the growing concern over the impact of human activity on marine
resources".

------------------------------------
Robben Island to Cull 10,000 Rabbits
------------------------------------

8. (U) Robben Island authorities are calling for culling over 10,000
rabbits on the island, beginning in November 2008. The rabbit
population has increased exponentially, however the lack of rainfall
and natural water sources has led to animal starvation. A
fourteen-member Robben Island Museum Council decided to recommend
culling after year-long deliberations with interested parties
including environmental and animal rights groups and the Department
of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Robben Island Museum Acting
CEO Seelan Naidoo said the decision to cull was difficult and
emotionally charged. He added that culling would not be a pleasant
task; however, it was the most effective method of dealing with the
problem. Naidoo said rabbits and other island animals were
starving, and were being run over by vehicles. Other animals to be
culled include feral cats and fallow deer. Naidoo added that the
workers who were involved in the culling project may need emotional
counseling after the project is completed because they are supposed
Qcounseling after the project is completed because they are supposed
to be protecting animals and not culling them.

----------------------------------
South Africans View Climate Change
as a Distant Threat
----------------------------------

9. (U) The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) 2007 South African
Social Attitudes Survey revealed that 72% of the survey participants
knew what global warming was with 44% more worried about the issue
than they had been a year ago. Seventy-one percent of South
Africans regard global climate change as a very serious or somewhat
serious threat compared to 95% of Brazilians and 90% of Britons,
Canadians and Indians. Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
researcher John Seager noted that although many South Africans know
about climate change, they regard it as a"distant threat." He said
most South Africans are reluctant to pay the costs associated with
curbing greenhouse emissions. Seager added that for South Africans
the environment is number ten on a list of the most important
challenges facing South Africa, behind unemployment, HIV/AIDS,
poverty and other economic issues. Seager said: "If you're not
sure where your next meal is coming from, that is more pressing than
something that will affect future generations." Seager noted that
South Africans do support government expenditures on developing

PRETORIA 00002501 003.2 OF 004


renewable energies.

-----------------------------------------
DME to Begin Rehabilitating Defunct Mines
-----------------------------------------

10. (U) Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) Chief Director of
Economic Analysis Tseko Nell said this week that mining activities
have resulted in "disastrous environmental acts." Nell noted that
mining is the leading generator of solid waste, and that this waste
has both direct and indirect impacts on air, biological, water
resources and land. DME is spending millions of rand to
rehabilitate and manage derelict South African mines to which no
owners lay claim. Nell said the DME has commissioned the Council
for Geo-Science to develop a national strategy to manage abandoned
mines. The Council will develop a methodology to allow DME to
create and maintain a derelict mine database, and will rank the
mines in the order of their negative impact on the environment,
health, and safety of local communities. Nell said DME is also
developing a strategy for regional mine closures.

--------------------------------
Mercury Contaminates Dams in KZN
--------------------------------

11. (U) The Kwa-Zulu Natal Department of Agriculture and
Environmental Affairs (DAEA) is investigating dams reported to be
contaminated by mercury. DAEA spokesman Thami Ngidi said his
department was inspecting the dams, some of which supply water to
the cities of Durban (eThekwini) and Pietermaritzburg, to determine
the source and levels of contamination. Ngidi added that Durban and
Pietermaritzburg's water remains safe to drink, although they are
treating the matter as an "urgent issue". The South African Medical
Research Council released results of a study assessing community
exposure to mercury for those living near the Inanda Dam; that study
showed high levels of mercury in hair samples taken from villagers
in the area.

--------------------------------------------
Pollution Threatens South African Coastlines
--------------------------------------------

12. (U) The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism's (DEAT)
Marine Coastal Management (MCM) unit released a report that 65
percent of South Africa's coastline is polluted, with twelve percent
at a critical stage. Sewage discharges into estuaries and oceans
have dramatically increased since 1991. Populations along the coast
have doubled; 128,800 cubic meters of waste water are pumped into
the ocean every day by the mining industry; and there are rising
concerns about toxic chemicals and malfunctioning sewage pump
stations. The study, which compared 1994 litter collections with
2005 collections, found a 184% increase in medical and sewage waste,
a 171% increase in plastic lids, a 157% increase in packaging and
single-use items, and an 88% increase in floating recreational
litter.

13. (U) MCM Director Dr Monde Mayekiso said DEAT will begin a major
clampdown against marine polluters. Suggested courses of action
include introducing new legislation, enacting a comprehensive
monitoring program, and the possible introduction of new
marine-protected areas. DEAT Head of Marine Pollution Dr. Yazeed
Petersen said DEAT will also launch a cleanup campaign targeting
major land-based polluters. Petersen said, "Eighty percent of all
marine pollution can be linked to some kind of land-based activity.
In total, we have identified 14 or 15 such activities or direct
QIn total, we have identified 14 or 15 such activities or direct
causes". Petersen noted that South African beaches and bays remain
relatively clean compared to those found in other parts of the
world, especially in the northern hemisphere.


--------------------------------------------- --
Companies Set Aside Land to Preserve Grasslands
--------------------------------------------- --

14. (U) Eight South African forestry companies have allocated 45,000
hectares of grasslands at 37 sites in the Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu
Natal (KZN) provinces as nature reserves or protected land. The
grasslands are the second largest biome after the Western Cape's
fynbos biome. The grasslands biome currently accounts for less than
three percent of protected land, but will increase to about five
percent when these grasslands are allocated. Grasslands Program
Spokesman Steve Germishuizen said South African grasslands have
always been overlooked. He noted that grasslands have been ploughed
over by farmers, planted over with alien species by foresters and
destroyed by the commercial industry. The recently-established
Grasslands Program will increase the number of protected grasslands,

PRETORIA 00002501 004.2 OF 004


especially the highly-threatened "mist belt grasslands" in KZN and
Mpumalanga provinces. Germishuizen said agriculture and forestry
had the biggest impact on the grasslands. Germishuizen noted that
one in seven grasslands is actually grass; the rest are species in
the bulbs, geophytes and flowering plants. Over 100 species exist
in any 10-square-meter area, with extensive networks of roots over
100 years old. Germinshuizen said that his organization would work
with the provincial conservation agencies and tribal authorities on
the 37 sites, over the next five years to improve grassland
management capacity and protect endemic species found on the lands.


------------------------------------
Johannesburg Upgrades Water Services
------------------------------------

15. (U) Johannesburg Water launched a R15 million ($1.5) million
upgrade project for the Ferndale area on October 6, 2008. MD Gerlad
Dumnas noted that "SA is a water scarce country" and advised that
Johannesburg Water is also launching water conservation education
programs to the public and in schools. In fiscal year 2008/9,
Johannesburg Water will spend R471 million (US $4.7M) on upgrading
the city's water infrastructure, which is about 50 years old.
Ferndale is prioritized because there have been 43 burst pipes in
that area in the past year. The upgrades consist of replacing the
old asbestos cement pipes with new high impact pipes. One hundred
and sixteen kilometers of pipes have already been replaced in
Soweto. Water supply systems have also been improved in Diepsloot
and Fourways, and new sewer network infrastructures are scheduled
for Diepsloot, a sprawling township outside Fourways. A R 22
million (US $ 2 M) project in the Ransburg area will be completed by
the end of October.

-----------------------------------------
South Africa to Create Digital Reef Atlas
-----------------------------------------

16. (U) South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Reef
Atlas Program Project Manager Prideel Majiedt announced a new
project to create South Africa's first-ever reef atlas, showing the
distribution of reef types in South African waters. Majiedt said,
"South Africa is one of the few countries where you get cold water
corals, soft corals and subtropical corals on one coastline. Some
species are found only in South Africa and it's our global
responsibility to look after them." She added that measures such as
the Reef Atlas are vital in planning for oceanographic changes
brought on by climate change and to protect coral reefs from
accidental damage by the fishing industry. Little is known about
South Africa's coral reefs because most research has focused on
terrestrial eco-systems. Majiedt said SANBI believed many reefs
are threatened, but lacked scientific knowledge regarding where
those reefs are located, how threatened they are, and what the
actual threats are to each reef.

17. (U) Majiedt noted that activities change depending on the
coastline in South Africa. She said: "On the West Coast there's a
lot of fishing, on the East Coast pipelines, on the South Coast oil
and gas mining, and diamond mining in the north-west. By mapping
all of these uses, we can partition the ocean in such a way that
everyone gets to benefit." The program encourages divers to submit
photographs of reefs, kelp beds and ship wrecks. Majiedt advised
that response has been slow because some dive shops are "very
Qthat response has been slow because some dive shops are "very
protective of their information because they have the GPS
co-ordinates, which is the lifeblood of the industry - they have
secret spots they take their customers to." Majiedt says that SANBI
will not make those co-ordinates publicly available "to ensure the
protection of vulnerable reef habitats and protection of the
information shared by divers.

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

18. (U) The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has
secured an investment of R500 million ($50 million) over the next
three years to ensure that all South African national parks are
exemplary energy-efficient showcases. South Africa Yearbook 2007/8

Bost

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