Oxfam report show dismal state of environment, economy in SA

2015-08-04 09:23
The red-brick road around the City Hall.

The red-brick road around the City Hall. (Jonathan Burton)

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A GLOBAL non-profit organisation has made several startling findings on the state of South Africa’s environment and socio-economic conditions.

Pietermaritzburg organisations believe the findings, while national in outlook, speak to regional challenges being faced.

The Oxfam environmental sustainability and social justice research study on South Africa, recently released, found that the country was breaking the threshold of sustainability and environmental control and performing well-below par in the delivery of social services.

Oxfam’s report said: “A significant proportion of South Africans are living below the social floor, while the country has already crossed its safe environmental boundaries for climate change, freshwater use, biodiversity loss and marine harvesting.”

The report urged the state to seek good governance and dismantle apartheid spatial development to, among other reasons, reduce pressure on services, vastly improve education outcomes, give clear leadership and allow the poor and disenfranchised to be heard.

The report said SA needs to invest “in its people and in its natural capital” while respecting global limits.

“The environment is central to the future prosperity of all South Africans and the country cannot move forward together without bringing along the majority who still live in poverty,” it said.

Also in the findings were concerns with air pollution, biodiversity loss, chemical pollution, fresh water deterioration, education, health, jobs and housing.

Pietermaritzburg-based groundWork climate and environmental justice campaigner Bobby Peek said environmental organisations were “often at odds” with big business.

He said government’s approach to the environment existed on “short-term gains as corporations pushed for profits” but left the environmental fallout for nearby communities, with Pietermaritzburg and surrounds being no different.

“We are told development must take place because of social justice but evidence shows, especially with the likes of coal mining, that local economies do not benefit when mining begins and once the mine closes, the communities are left with the environmental problems,” said Peek.

He said the northern KZN mines had given no long-term benefit to the communities except for a selected few.

groundWork’s environmental health head Rico Euripidou said local and district municipalities lack the ability to deal with industrial, ground and air pollution with Msunduzi Municipality being no different.

“There isn’t sufficient oversight nor the skilled personnel to undertake these tasks at local government level. Big industry [uses this vacuum] to act with impunity,” said Euripidou.

Pietermaritzburg Community Chest head Michael Deegan said a turnaround will only happen if civil society pulls together.

“I am not seeing any progress [in social advancement] and in fact things are getting worse.

“In Msunduzi we have over 800 registered NPOs. If we could find a way for them to consolidate, talk and work together we wouldn’t just have an impact on our communities, but a tsunami,” said Deegan

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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