02 December 2004

New biodiversity centre opened

Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk opened the new biodiversity centre at the Pretoria National Botanical gardens on Thursday.

South Africa had the richest variety of flora and fauna of any country of equal size in the world, Van Schalkwyk said in a media statement.

"We are home to nearly 10% of all plants and 7% of all reptiles, birds and mammals", he said.

The centre will house the South African National Biodiversity Institute which was brought into existence by the signing of the Biodiverity Act in May this year.

"As our country and the people have developed so too have the challenges confronting our resources," Van Schalkwyk said.

At the opening Van Schalkwyk said that R70m would be granted the institute to develop a "Greening of the Nation" project, which would build on the extensive experience of outreach projects since 1990.

"This greening project will aim to rehabilitate degraded land, develop indigenous gardens in schools and public spaces, combat air pollution by greening urban areas, prevent extinction of medicinal plants and trees, and will also embark on the large scale provincial indigenous tree planting," the minister said.


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