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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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DE RUEHSA #3319/01 2621358
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191358Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1853
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 4837
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9168
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 7438

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PRETORIA 003319

SIPDIS

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 2007


PRETORIA 00003319 001.2 OF 003


1. (U) Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science and
Technology Monthly Briefings newsletter, August 2007, Volume 2,
Number 5, prepared by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

Topics of the newsletter:

-- SASOL THE SINGLE LARGEST SOURCE OF GREEN HOUSE GASES IN THE
WORLD
-- RADIO-QUITE ZONE MAY CREATE COSTLY UNITENDED CONSEQUENCES
-- SOUTH AFRICA WATER LOSS LEVES UNACCEPTABLE
-- MBOWENI FAVORS SUGAR CANE FOR FUEL PRODUCTION
-- BIOFUEL INDUSTRY HAS POTENTIAL TO PROVIDE ENEGRGY AND JOBS
-- SOUTH AFRICA LAUNCHES ENVIRONMENTAL GOODS AND SERVICES FORUM
-- SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT FOREST INDUSTRIALIZATION PROGRAM
CRITICIZED
-- BLAZING INFERNOS RAVAGE SOUTH AFRICA COUNTRYSIDE
End Summary.

SASOL: THE SINGLE LARGEST SOURCE OF GREEN HOUSE GASES IN THE WORLD
2. (U) Officials of the Department of Environmental Affairs and
Tourism (DEAT) and the South African Weather Services (SAWS) told a
parliamentary portfolio committee that SASOL, the world's largest
synthetic fuels facility, is the single largest source of green
house gases (GHG) in the world. DEAT Senior Policy Advisor on
Climate Change Judy Beaumont also told the committee that South
Africa has an extremely GHG-intensive economy because of its heavy
reliance on coal burning for energy. South Africa is the largest
contributor of GHG emissions in Africa, ranked at 25th in the world
and 11th among developing countries according to information sourced
from the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change. The
data also reports that since 1981 South Africa has surpassed both
the US and India in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced per
$1,000 of Gross Domestic Production (GDP).
3. (U) African National Congress (ANC) Member of Parliament Aubrey
Mokoena questioned South Africa's high emissions numbers and found
it preposterous that South Africa produced more CO2 than the U.S.,
considering the relative sizes of their economies. Committee
Chairman Langa Zita acknowledged the high-level climate change
meeting in Washington DC called by the U.S. government for October.
Zita suggested that the U.S. might present new commitments to GHG
reductions during this meeting. The meeting will precede the 13th
Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change scheduled for December 2007 in Bali.
RADIO-QUITE ZONE MAY CREATE COSTLY UNITENDED CONSEQUENCES
4. (U) The Department of Science and Technology (DST) parliamentary
portfolio committee held discussions with interested stakeholders
regarding the proposed Astronomy Geographic Advantage Bill, which
would allow DST to create a radio-quiet zone around the proposed
site for the $1 billion Square Kilometer Array (SKA) in the Northern
Cape. The radio-quiet zone would minimize or eradicate radio
interference by aircraft radar, cell phone masts, radio frequency
and television broadcasts, light pollution and human settlement.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Transnet have
both expressed concerns about the draft bill, stating that it could
have costly unintended consequences.
5. (U) Transnet Chief Engineer for Tele-communications Danie Botha
said his quasi-government entity could be required to replace radio
equipment used on freight trains in the area with expensive
alternative technologies. He said this could cost them in excess of
$26 million over the next eight years. Transnet currently operates
three key railway lines in the Northern Cape Province which generate
over $143 million per year. The NAB argued that broadcaster license
conditions require that the broadcaster provide services to all
South Africans. NAB claims that minimizing broadcasts in the SKA
area would violate those conditions. The NAB also complained that
the bill would give the DST Minister powers that had previously been
granted to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
(ICASA). SA is competing with Australia to host the
multi-nationally funded SKA telescope, which would be the largest
and most powerful radio telescope in operation.


SOUTH AFRICA WATER LOSS LEVES UNACCEPTABLE
6. (U) Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) Director
General Jabu Sindane told attendees to the inaugural Water
Sustainability Conference in mid August, that water remains a scarce
resource in South Africa. He said although the country is not in
danger of running short of water in the near future, the current
water waste levels are unacceptable because "South Africa is a dry
country." The average rainfall in South Africa is only 450
millimeters per year, far below the world average of 860
millimeters. Sindane noted that South Africa loses approximately
$430 million a year due to water leaks and poorly operated waste
water treatment facilities. Irrigation accounts for sixty percent
of all the water requirements in the country, while the remaining
forty percent is shared among other sectors of the economy. The

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National Treasury allocated $700 million for bulk water services
infrastructure in February this year. The national government and
local municipalities have also established 20 water management
agencies throughout South Africa, and have launched campaigns to
encourage consumers to use water sparingly and efficiently. DWAF
budgeted over $3 billion in the previous fiscal period to build 18
new dams over the next 20 years. The state-owned Trans-Caledon
Tunnel Authority will manage the building of the dams and plans to
obtain additional revenue from the sale of water.
MBOWENI FAVORS SUGAR CANE FOR FUEL PRODUCTION
7. (U) Addressing the parliamentary portfolio committee for finance
in August, South African Reserve Bank (SARB) Governor Tito Mboweni
urged maize farmers in the Free State not to shift to ethanol
production because this could distort the domestic maize market and
raise prices. He suggested that farmers move to sugar cane rather
than maize as their source crop for biofuel production. Many Free
State maize farmers have already sold their maize for up to ten
years ahead on future markets. Mboweni is concerned that farmers
may not be able to sustain maize production for animal and human
consumption, as well as for fuel production. Mboweni said that
South Africa should follow global alternative and renewable energy
trends such as biofuel production, but must also act responsibly.
He cited Brazil as an example to emulate, stating that the country
had been producing bio-ethanol efficiently and sustainably from
sugar cane and had used it to dilute gasoline for automobiles for
decades.
8. (U) Mboweni did not support the U.S. production system which
emphasized maize as the source crop. Mboweni remained skeptical
that biofuel production would have a significant impact on the crude
oil price, but did acknowledge that biofuel production is
well-aligned with the South Africa government's Accelerated Shared
Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGI-SA). The Department of
Minerals and Energy (DME) supports the inclusion of maize, along
with sugar cane, soya beans and sunflower seeds, as crop sources for
bio-diesel production.
BIOFUEL INDUSTRY HAS POTENTIAL TO PROVIDE ENEGRGY AND JOBS
9. (U) Principle Energy Executive Director Paul Zorner said South
Africa needs to look at agriculture as a source of food and energy,
and that Sub-Saharan Africa has a huge potential to make the biofuel
industry a great success. He told delegates attending the opening
of the 26th International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists that
the global demand for energy and food will continue to grow, and
that agriculture and technology could help South Africa meet the
demand. According Zorner, every 1 billion gallons of ethanol
produced in South Africa creates 8,000 jobs, 1,500 of which could be
permanent jobs. Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena
has advised that the government is in the process of developing a
national biofuel strategy, but he did not commit to any government
subsidies for biofuels. Mangena cautioned that subsidizing biofuels
would trigger other sectors such as agriculture to demand
subsidization as well.
10. (U) The S&T Minister said that government has to conduct a
delicate balancing act to develop the biofuel industry while not
disrupting food production. Mangena agreed with SARB Governor
Mboweni that maize should not be considered a source crop for
biofuel because there is already a maize shortage in the country.
Mangena also noted that water would be a serious challenge for the
biofuel industry since irrigation already accounts for the largest
share of water consumption in the country. Zorner commented that
finance would be another key challenge facing the industry because
the required equipment is expensive. The biofuel industry remains
on hold in South Africa pending the government's promulgation of
implementing regulations.
SOUTH AFRICA LAUNCHES ENVIRONMENTAL GOODS AND SERVICES FORUM
11. (U) The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) launched the
South African Environmental Goods and Services Forum (SAEGSF) in
August. DTI Chief Director for Technical Infrastructure Dr. Tshenge
Demana said that it has become increasingly vital for countries to
meet international environmental standards if they wish to trade
internationally. Demana underscored that South Africa needs to
conform to international standards if it plans to be competitive in
environmental goods. DTI Director of Environment Dorah Nteo, stated
that SAEGSF would serve as the voice for the business sector
providing a platform for communication and marketing. The
international green industry is estimated to be worth $600 billion
(R4.2 trillion) and continues to grow at 45 percent per year
according to the DTI environmental directorate. South African
demand for green goods and services was estimated at t between R14.5
billion ($2 billion) and R23.2 billion ($3 billion) three years ago.
The sector contributes about 1.6 percent of GDP, employs over
500,000 people and is growing at an annual rate of 15 percent.
SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT FOREST INDUSTRIALIZATION PROGRAM
CRITICIZED
12. (U) The South African government released in early August the
National Industrial Policy Framework (NIDPF) targeting forestry,
furniture, paper and pulp as the lead sector for development in the

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next ten years. South Africa plans to establish forest plantations
in the provinces of Kwa-Zulu Natal (100,000 hectares) and the
Eastern Cape (40,000 hectares). The ultimate goal of the initiative
is to create over 41,000 jobs in the plantations and about 2,000
jobs in primary processing and downstream sectors. An initial
investment of about R1.5 billion ($0.2 billion) is required to
establish the plantations, and a further "substantial" investment
will subsequently be needed to create downstream processing
operations according to the Department of Trade and Industry.
13. (U) Environmental NGOs, including Timberwatch Coalition
spokesman Wally Manne criticized the South African government
afforestration plan. Manne argued that the government's plan is not
based on economic assessments, and does not consider the impact on
poor rural communities. Manne noted that although the government is
promoting the plan as a way to encourage rural development, there
have been no studies indicating any real benefits to rural people.
Manne said that such initiatives often end up disenfranchising rural
people and driving them off the land and out of the jobs they once
held. Independent environmental biodiversity assessment consultant
Paul Desmet stated that because of the many untapped rivers in the
Eastern Cape, the forest plan is viable in that province, but he
would not say the same for the Kwa-Zulu Natal province, a
water-stressed location. Other critics of the NIDPF note that even
though the government admits that South Africa will experience
severe water shortages by 2020, the government continues to
aggressively expand water intensive programs such as this forest
plan, agro-processing and biofuels.
BLAZING INFERNOS RAVAGE SOUTH AFRICA COUNTRYSIDE
14. (U) Raging fires swept through Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) and
Mpumalanga provinces in late July and early August, leaving behind
destroyed properties, many people killed or severely injured, and
thousands of wounded or dead animals. The fires occurred at the
height of the winter season when most grasslands and forests are
very dry. The fires were fanned by 90 kilometer per hour winds,
which ripped the roofs off buildings. At least 22 people were
killed in the fires, including nine in KZN and thirteen in
Mpumalanga. A team of firefighters in Graskop, Mpumalanga lost five
members in the fires and one firefighter drowned when attempting to
escape the fires. Five sawmills and an estimated 25,000 hectares of
forest land were destroyed in the Graskop and Sabie forest
plantations. The Mpumalanga provincial government deployed all the
firefighters at their disposal, and the South African Air Force sent
out Oryx helicopters, which flew nearly 300 hours over the hotspots.
Sappi, a company that owns vast forest plantations in the region,
deployed its team of 400 fire fighters.
15. (U) Vic Jacobs of Electra Communications blamed the loss of life
and property to slow action and indecisiveness on the part of the
Graskop municipality and the national government. He said although
a communications network had been presented to the authorities two
years ago, the disaster plan had yet to be implemented. Elektra
Communications has also developed an inter-linked network system
which remote communities could use to send out alarm signals to a
central point, but these too have not been installed. Jacobs
complained that South Africa has not learned from the fires and the
floods which struck the area in 2000 and 2002. He cautioned that
businesses and tourists have been left without any contingency plans
to deal with the emergencies, especially when disasters are coupled
with power failures as happened in this instance. Jacobs praised
the response of the private companies Sappi and Mondi, both of which
sent in firefighting teams. The National Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals also sent emergency teams to the area to help
animals with severe burns.
Bost

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