Our lives are sup­ported by fi­nite nat­u­ral re­sources that are threat­ened by var­i­ous el­e­ments, in­clud­ing in­va­sive alien and dis­as­ters such as veld fires

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

There is a con­certed drive at var­i­ous lev­els of gov­ern­ment to mo­bilise com­mu­ni­ties to save wa­ter.

But lit­tle at­ten­tion is paid to the real vil­lains of wa­ter con­sump­tion and wastage – the in­va­sive alien. But this is chang­ing. The Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs has in­ten­si­fied the cam­paign to dras­ti­cally re­duce wa­ter wastage by the alien trees and plants found in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try.

Through a pro­gramme called Work­ing for Wa­ter, the depart­ment has cleared more than 3 mil­lion hectares of land since the in­cep­tion of the pro­gramme.

An es­ti­mated 48% of these are in­va­sive trees with known im­pacts on wa­ter.

This clear­ing has resulted in the sav­ing of a num­ber of indige­nous veg­e­ta­tion types through­out South Africa’s di­verse land­scapes.

Clear­ing al­ways re­quires fol­low up and some­times land users do not com­ply and the un­wanted veg­e­ta­tion grow again.

If it is as­sumed that the av­er­age den­sity of land cleared is around 14.4% one can es­ti­mate the amount of wa­ter gained. Wa­ter im­pacts vary sig­nif­i­cantly de­pend­ing on the re­gion.

Prosopis in the Ka­roo, for ex­am­ple, uses 80% more wa­ter than the nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion, but the vol­umes are low in com­par­i­son with Eu­ca­lyp­tus in ri­par­ian zones.

The lat­ter could eas­ily be as much as 3500 m3/ha per year while in wa­ter stressed ar­eas the wa­ter gain could be less than 700 m3/ha/year.

A rough es­ti­mate of the po­ten­tial wa­ter gained as a re­sult of clear­ing to date, based on the above is around 180 – 200 mil­lion/m3 per year since its in­cep­tion.

The Work­ing for Wa­ter pro­gramme has cre­ated es­ti­mated 210 600 per­son years of em­ploy­ment. Over the last 5 years on av­er­age around 48 300 peo­ple ben­e­fited ((2010/11 36 900 – (2015/16) 69 373).

Through in­vest­ment un­der the Work­ing for Wet­lands pro­gramme, gov­ern­ment has im­proved or se­cured the health of more than 80 000 hectares of wet­land area.

Through its re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, the pro­gramme has cre­ated over 27 000 jobs, gen­er­at­ing 3 mil­lion per­son days, of which 250 000 were in vo­ca­tional and life skills train­ing.

Teams that form part of the Pro­gramme are made up of a min­i­mum of 60% women, 20% youth and 2% peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

Wet­lands, how­ever, re­main the most threat­ened of all South Africa’s ecosys­tems, with 48% of wet­land ecosys­tems be­ing crit­i­cally en­dan­gered and we will, there­fore, con­tinue to fund in­ter­ven­tions un­der this pro­gramme.

The Work­ing for Wet­lands Pro­gramme has since 2004 in­vested R1 bil­lion into the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of 1200 wet­lands around South Africa. This also and cre­ated 25 000 job and much needed train­ing.

Wet­lands are among the most threat­ened aquatic habi­tats in South Africa due to bad land man­age­ment prac­tices, such as ef­flu­ent dis­posal, over­graz­ing, un­sus­tain­able crop pro­duc­tion, pol­lu­tion, ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and ero­sion.

These prac­tices af­fect the wa­ter flow and qual­ity, which ul­ti­mately de­stroys the wet­land.

They are eco­log­i­cally im­por­tant as they mod­er­ate wa­ter flow and reg­u­late wa­ter qual­ity.

They store wa­ter dur­ing wet pe­ri­ods pre­vent­ing floods and en­sur­ing sup­ply dur­ing droughts like the one South Africa is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing at the mo­ment.

They pu­rify wa­ter and con­trol soil ero­sion.

The Work­ing for Wet­lands pro­gramme is man­dated to pro­tect, pro­mote the wise-use and re­ha­bil­i­tate de­graded wet­lands all over the coun­try.

Cur­rently the bulk of the al­lo­cated bud­get goes into re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of de­graded wet­lands, and in the process jobs are cre­ated and skills are im­parted to par­tic­i­pants through train­ing.

In the 2015/2016 fi­nan­cial year, Work­ing for Wet­lands gen­er­ated over 220 000 per­son days, of which over 10 000 were train­ing per­son days.

A to­tal of 3233 jobs were cre­ated in 2015/16 with a bud­get al­lo­ca­tion of R110 601 659.

The Work­ing for Wet­lands pro­gramme started in 2000, with a small num­ber of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in­ter­ven­tions, but has grown to in­volve over 450 in­ter­ven­tions be­ing im­ple­mented each year.

This is done in ex­cess of about 120 wet­lands per year in all the nine prov­inces.

In the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year, these pro­grammes com­bined to pro­vide 86 029 work op­por­tu­ni­ties to peo­ple. Of these, 65% were youth; 54% were fe­male, and 3.8% were peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

While the fi­nal fig­ures are still to be ver­i­fied, this trans­lated into ap­prox­i­mately 41 145 full-time equiv­a­lent jobs be­ing paid in the fi­nan­cial year.

The pro­grammes are run across the coun­try, in all nine prov­inces, and fo­cus on the most marginalised in our coun­try.

The ben­e­fits of the work are demon­stra­ble, in terms of pro­vid­ing train­ing, of in­still­ing a work ethic, of in­still­ing a sense of dig­nity for do­ing work that mat­ters, and in terms of giv­ing hope to the un­em­ployed.

The choice of pro­grammes is de­signed to en­sure that there are sig­nif­i­cant re­turns on in­vest­ment, and that this is not “make-work” ac­tiv­i­ties.

In a num­ber of the pro­grammes, the par­tic­i­pants are paid on a task ba­sis – i.e. they are paid for what they are set to do as a task, and not on a daily wage rate.

While that is not eas­ily done in all pro­grammes, it does help to in­still a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity, ac­count­abil­ity and pride in per­for­mance.

The im­pact of the in­ter­ven­tions in­cludes, con­crete struc­tures, earth struc­tures, gabions and re-veg­e­ta­tion.

In or­der to in­crease its foot­print, the pro­gramme is grad­u­ally mov­ing into com­pli­ance, ex­ten­sion, and be­gin­ning to tar­get less de­graded wet­lands sys­tems where sim­pler, smaller and cheaper in­ter­ven­tions can be em­ployed.

Some of the fu­ture plans in­clude in­creas­ing the pro­grammes foot­print, ex­pand­ing into other ar­eas, and find­ing sim­pler and cost ef­fec­tive in­ter­ven­tions, as well as catch­ment level plan­ning to op­ti­mise ben­e­fits to eco­log­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture and max­imise im­pact, in­sti­tu­tional and pol­icy col­lab­o­ra­tion and or part­ner­ships.

Fur­ther­more through ad­vo­cacy, by am­pli­fy­ing the value of wet­lands and out­comes eval­u­a­tions to un­lock other sources of fund­ing.

Work­ing for Wa­ter has cre­ated thou­sands of jobs

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.