07 June 2005

South Africa celebrates National Environment Week

Issues relating to the environment come under the spotlight this week as South Africa celebrates National Environment Week, coinciding with International Environment Day today.

The week has been themed: "Our environment belongs to all who live in it".

The United Nations General Assembly established World Environment Day in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

This resulted in the establishment of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), through which the international community addresses concerns for the environment.

As part of the celebrations in South Africa this year, the National Assembly will debate the subject on Wednesday with special emphasis on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol.

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk is also expected to formally designate the first group of Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs) - the "Green Scorpions".

The environmental inspectors are authorised with a range of enforcement powers varying from routine inspections to search and seizure operations, setting up roadblocks and arresting suspects.

They will also issue formal notices to individuals or corporations who are breaking environmental laws or not complying with the terms of their licences.

Launching the week, the Minister said it was appropriate that the UNEP chose this year's theme for World Environment Day - 'Green Cities' - because cities consumed more than 75 percent of global resources.

He said this week's celebrations would emphasise the South African approach to environmental concerns.

"This approach places people at the centre of the environmental equation, and takes the view that protecting and promoting the interests of people and the interests of the environment are one and the same battle," he explained.

Meanwhile, the Minister will launch the first in a series of countrywide Clean Air Imbizo meetings in Boipatong tomorrow, to engage with communities worst affected by air pollution.

"Ensuring Green Cities and the ownership of our environment by all communities means dealing with the damage caused by urban development," said the Minister.

Today, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi is celebrating with the Makuleke community in Limpopo.

The community is regarded as a "beacon of hope" for land restitution in the country, following the return of their land within the Kruger National Park.

The Makuleke people occupied the land between Limpopo and Luvhuvhu River north of the park until they were forcefully removed from their rich land in 1969 by the apartheid government.

However, through the Land Restitution Programme, the community has been acknowledged as true owners of the land and have since enjoyed economic benefits for their land rich with bio-diversity and conservation value.

Source: www.allafrica.com


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