Eastern Cape Finance, Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC, Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane said the national and provincial government is increasing efforts to rehabilitate nine wetlands across the province as part of the national bio-diversity plan.
Speaking at the provincial Wetlands event, Mabuyane said government investing R18 million into the rehabilitation of highly degraded wetlands in Kroom river, Baviaans, Tsitsikamma, Port Elizabeth, Hogback, Katberg, Qunu and in Seymour.
“The rehabilitation of these wetlands is planned for three years. We are now intensifying this work. In each of the three years, we plan to create 349 jobs from these wetlands. Wetlands are important for every community and communities to have a duty to protect the wetlands,” said Mabuyane.
He said wetlands were important as they are storage of water to ensure supply during dry periods, buffers to prevent floods, homes for animals and plants, providers of food for livestock, and prime locations for recreation.
Mabuyane said the government’s efforts to protect wetlands will roll out as a three-point plan which is aimed at educating communities to be environmentally conscious.
“In this regard, we will do three things: We will continue educating our communities and in-school youth about the importance of wetlands; we will embark on a Wetlands Restoration Programme, and lastly, we will enforce consequences on transgressors,” said Mabuyane.
He said some of the harm caused on the environment by the public was done unconsciously. Hence, it was necessary to educate communities to stop the careless attitude and behaviour in respect of environmental issues.
“The protection of our Wetlands is our collective responsibility. We must continue to inculcate the culture of caring for our Wetlands in the in-school youth as they are the future of our country. If we empower them with knowledge, they will not allow us adults to make decisions that will ruin their natural environment in the future. So we must communicate the importance of environmental studies at an early age to our children as we are doing with the ICT evolution,” said Mabuyane.
He said part of the programme was to drive restoration of our Wetlands to protect them from harmful practices such as unplanned development, pollution and invasive species.
“All of us want development in our communities, but that development must be balanced development, not destructive development. Any development that seeks to threaten the existence of Wetlands must be rejected because Wetlands are not something you can move to another area when you want to do development in their original location. We rely on our Environment Impact Assessment processes to guide us on this matter,” said Mabuyane.
Mabuyane said people who just decide to plant trees around the wetlands in the hope that they will grow faster, drain water from Wetlands to sea and municipalities who direct dirty stormwater from drainage systems to Wetlands are some of the actions that cause harm to the wetlands.
“Wetlands are declared protected areas in our country and in other parts of the world. Anyone who damages our wetlands, be it an individual, a municipality or a private business, must face the full might of the law.
“Our laws must encourage people to stop destroying our environment. Otherwise, we will talk until we turn blue. The Green Scorpions must intensify their operations in the Wetland areas of our Province before they are extinct,” he said.
One of the learners participating in school environmental health programme, Olwethu Pitso, 13, from Silindini Full Service School said they are creating awareness amongst both young and old about the importance of environment and wetlands, in particular.
“We want to teach people, our peers and adults to stop destroying the natural resources and to respect nature because we earn our living from nature,” said Pitso who is part of the group of learners making presentations about environment conservation.
With 50 per cent of the world’s wetlands destroyed by humans, the provincial government is currently conducting a Wetland mapping exercise to verify the number of Wetlands in the province, their statuses and conditions as part of the provincial bio-diversity plan aimed at restoring wetlands.