The environmental sector continues to be a source of job creation, skills development and community upliftment. Through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) the ANC government is advancing management of South Africa’s vast natural resources.
The Department of Environmental Affairs this week presented its annual Budget Vote speech, outlining the department’s priorities and programmes for the year ahead. The speech contained impressive statistics indicative of the extent to which the department is facilitating creation of meaningful livelihood opportunities in the areas of water resource management, biological diversity and ecosystems management, primarily through the “Working For” programmes.
Participants in the department’s Environmental Programmes were invited as guests of the department to the Budget Vote speech: a testimony that the ANC government is delivering jobs that matter, restoring status and dignity to our people.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa lauded them, together with their approximately 93,000 colleagues in all nine Provinces, for the sterling work that they are doing for the country, its environment, and its people.
In the past financial year the Working for Water programme cleared 874,813 hectares of land of invasive alien plants, as well as waterweeds on 20 water bodies; introduced biological control agents on 673 sites; targeted 118 emerging species for early detection and rapid response; targeted 70 invasive plant species for eradication, and managed 13 non-plant invasives across the country.
The Eco-Furniture Programme that uses wood from invasive alien plants put some 285,440 Learners behind a quality school desk for the first time in their school careers, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education.
The Value-Added Industries programme has also made exceptional progress in using invasive alien plant biomass for other building materials, and a lot will be heard about this in the coming years.
The Working for Ecosystems programme repaired 66,024 hectares of land in our catchment areas.
The world-famous Working on Fire programme suppressed 2,295 wild fires (and additionally used fire to manage 123,158 hectares of land), among other achievements.
An estimated 4,374,051 trees were planted and 51 community parks either created or rehabilitated with a total of 2,113 kilometres of accessible coastline was cleaned through our Working for the Coasts programme.
A hundred and twenty (120) wetlands were repaired across the country, through our Working for Wetlands programme.
The Working on Waste programme ensured that 13 buyback or recycling facilities were built.
In the past financial year, through the Youth Jobs in Waste programme we have created 7 745 work opportunities, of which 7 448 are youth, and 4 760 are women. This programme has played a role in lessening the backlog in solid waste service delivery, and creating capacity within municipalities.
Amongst the successful initiatives born out of this programme are the creation of a landfill site in Ga-Segonyana in the Northern Cape, that created 426 jobs for locals, and the building of a buyback center for the Govan Mbeki Municipality in Mpumalanga valued at R7 million.
The Youth Environmental Service Programme ensured that 1,040 young people received comprehensive and wide-ranging practical and theoretical training in environmental matters.
For EPIP programmes, together with NRM, they suggest a total of 41,069 FTEs – 118% of target.
The job creation figures in the Natural Resource Management Programmes (NRM’s) are impressive.
41,069 FTEs have been created, and 93,217 Work Opportunities, with 53% women, 66% youth and 3% people with disabilities.
With regards to Environmental Programmes, linked to the Expanded Public Works Programmes, the Department has had a very good year.
During the past financial year 23,994 full-time equivalents (FTEs) and 68,373 work opportunities (WO’s) were created. Of these, 52% were women, 66% were youth and 2.9% were People with Disabilities.
The Department’s Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programmes (EPIP) created a further 8,853 FTEs and 16,660 WO’s, with 60% of them women, 66.5% of them youth and 2.4% people with disabilities.
Also cited was the department’s Environmental Monitor programme that has received international recognition and accolades particularly in the wildlife sector, namely the all-female anti-poaching Environmental Monitors, the Black Mambas, who work in the Balule Game Reserve. In 2015/16 the Black Mambas received the United Nations top environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth award, for their contributions to fighting the scourge of poaching of rhino and other species.
During the past financial year a total of 1,442 Environmental Monitors were deployed in public and private parks and nature reserves across the country.
The Environmental Programmes spent its full budget of R2.947 billion during the 2015/16 financial years, and its budget for Environmental Programmes for 2016/17 is R3.296 billion.