On the 15th of August 2012, the National Planning Commission handed over the National Development Plan, the vision of the country for the next 20 years, to the President. The NDP contains proposals for tackling the problems of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The National Development Plan outlines interventions that can put the economy on a better footing. The target for job creation is set at 11 million by 2030 and the economy needs to grow three fold to create the desired jobs.
It is a roadmap to a South Africa where all will have water, electricity, sanitation, jobs, housing, public transport, adequate nutrition, education, social protection, quality healthcare, recreation and a clean environment.
Our green economy interventions must support this roadmap to ensure that our programmes positively contribute to this target and centrally position our sector as a hub of job creation, whilst not deviating from our mandate of protecting the integrity of our environment.
Our ecological infrastructure is nature’s equivalent of built infrastructure. It includes our mountain catchments, wetlands and coastal dunes, and is increasingly being recognised for its importance to service delivery in both the rural and urban contexts.
However, this has not always been recognised as such, largely because the goods and services provided by ecological infrastructure have to date been freely available in relative abundance. Land degradation and climate change, however, are rapidly undermining the world’s ecological infrastructure and its ability to support sustainable service delivery.
The National Development Plan reminds us of the escalating costs of maintaining built infrastructure in the face of increasing natural disasters, as well as the rising costs of delivering clean water to communities. This suggests that the value of biodiversity assets and ecological infrastructure now urgently needs to be understood by those sectors facilitating the implementation of this plan.
In support of this, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is spearheading an innovative programme of work on ecological infrastructure analysis, inclusive of costing of our natural capital. With this body of knowledge we will be empowered to make informed development-related decisions.
This will be particularly beneficial at a municipal level, but also in aid of water security and disaster risk management. Investment in the management of our ecological infrastructure will secure and build natural capital in South Africa, and will provide a foundation for building climate resilient economies and create jobs.
Green economy initiatives
Good environmental management coupled with integrated development planning will allow us to build a low carbon economy that supports resilient ecosystems and economies. Healthy and intact ecosystems give us more options for responding to climate change, alleviating poverty and building a green economy.
We are committed to improve the socio-economic benefits within the environmental sector, by creating 65 494 work opportunities which will yield 34 019 Full-Time Equivalents Jobs. The targeted designated groups are women, youth and people living with disabilities.
We have accessed a total amount of R 2.39 billion from the Expanded Public Works Programme for our Environmental Programmes in the new financial year, which will boost the job-creation objective of government, and secure vital environmental benefits from the work to be done.
The jobs will not be created in isolation to the department’s mandate; hence the Working for Water, Working on Fire and the Environmental Protection and Infrastructure programmes, through their various sub-programmes, will also deliver environmental outputs such as:
- rehabilitating 105 wetlands
- cleaning more than 2 100 kilometres of coastline
- rehabilitation of estuaries and dunes
- construction of boardwalks to facilitate access
- planting trees
- building of waste buy-back centres
- removing invasive alien plants, provision of infrastructure to facilitate conservation and rehabilitating thousands of hectares of land this year.
The jobs created will be coupled with skills development where-in 184 263 accredited training person days will be achieved.
During the 2013/14 financial year the department committed to spend just over:
- R1.13 billion on the Working for Water and associated programmes
- R406 million on Working on Fire
- R817 million on Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programmes.
Forestry South Africa calculated that the damage to the forestry industry through the major fires is worth about R 3, 6 billion, but this could have doubled had it not been for the Working on Fire partnership.
The biggest budget allocations are again going towards Eastern Cape and South African National Parks (SANParks) projects, the SANParks budget includes the funding for the eco-furniture factories.
As part of our environmental sector contribution towards addressing the challenges of youth unemployment in the country, we have initiated two programmes which encourage better environmental management practices within our communities.
- Firstly, the Youth Environmental Services (YES) Programme, which was launched in September 2013 will benefit 2700 young people over the next three years. Upon exiting the programme these young people will be placed in either permanent employment or further training institutions.
- Youth Jobs in Waste Programme, launched in June 2013. This project is expected to create 330 job opportunities in waste in the Free State and 326 in the North West. The project, once rolled out nationally, is intended to provide 3 577 young people with job opportunities in waste management and related entrepreneurship.
- The Groen Sebenza project which was also launched in June 2013, is based on an "incubator model" giving the 800 participating youth workplace experience through a structured mentoring programme, together with skills development and training opportunities for a period of two-and-a-half (2½) years. 500 graduates and 300 school leavers (matriculants) referred to as "incubants" will be placed with one of the 33 partner organisations for the duration of the project.
- The introduction of Environmental Monitors to deal with environmental threats in protected areas, including the scourge of rhino-poaching nationally. Through this programme, 1 000 young people will be employed to strengthen the fight against rhino poaching and other environmental challenges.