06 June 2005

South Africa set to celebrate National Environment Week

The 21 st Century marks the first point in human history that the majority of the world's people will be living in cities," said Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, speaking on World Environment Day on Sunday. The Minister was also launching South Africa 's celebrations of National Environment Week.

The United Nations General Assembly established World Environment Day in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. This conference resulted in the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through which concerns for the environment are addressed by the international community.

"Cities consume more than 75% of our global resources, and it is therefore very appropriate that UNEP has chosen ' Green Cities ' as the international theme for World Environment Day this year," said Minister Van Schalkwyk. "This is also the ten year anniversary of Pretoria 's hosting of the international World Environment Day celebrations in 1995. Our national theme for the week is 'Our environment belongs to all who live in it' and echoes another anniversary – that of the Freedom Charter."

"Our celebrations this week will emphasise the South African approach to environmental concerns," said the Minister. "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."

Minister Van Schalkwyk will on Monday, in Boipatong, launch the first in a series of countrywide Clean Air Imbizo meetings to engage with the 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.

On Wednesday there will be a debate in the National Assembly on the subject of National Environment week, with a special emphasis on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol. The Minister is also expected this week to formally empower the first group of Environmental Management Inspectors – the so-called 'Green Scorpions'.

The Deputy Minster of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, is today celebrating the launch of the week in the Makuleke community in Limpopo which is regarded as a 'beacon of hope' for land restitution in the country. The Makuleke community story demonstrates the results of a successful partnership between community and business. This further entrenches the concept of people and parks, whereby land restitution happens within a conservation area.

Speaking about the importance of National Environment Week the Deputy Minister said "Within the context of the celebration of the Freedom Charter it is important that our communities should start to take ownership of the environment and ensure that they partner with government in pursuing a vision of a clean and healthy environment." She added that "Such partnerships must include other stakeholders like business to ensure that all derive real benefits from our environment".

Source: www.deat.gov.za


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