EC’s environmental management continues to pack punch

The Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo said that province’s environmental management had continued with its stellar performance.

Somyo, who presented his policy speech earlier today, said that while rhino poaching in the region was on the increase, the Eastern Cape had not been as hard-hit as other provinces, with the provincial and SANParks experiencing no poaching. 

But there was no room celebration as private game farms had recorded 15 incidents in 2014 and further seven incidences by February 2015. The department and Hawks were investigating these cases.

The department had also met with success with protecting cycads. Over 170 cycads worth R5 million had been confiscated.  Arrests had been made which had led to six persons being sentenced and convicted. Sentences, in some instances, were severe as seven years.

Somyo pointed out that while fiscal resources were limited, the department was continuing “to be creative in our approach, working with law enforcement, security cluster partners and communities in order to encourage awareness and partnerships to decrease poaching”.

The Provincial Environmental Crime Working and Wild Coast Illegal Development Task groups, both chaired by the department, are to remain as the main coordinating forums for collaboration amongst enforcement agencies, and monitoring and enforcement of the coastline.

In the past year, Somyo said, the department had made headway with its establishment of volunteer clusters of honorary environmental officers which had resulted in improved intelligence gathering, visibility and proactive enforcement.

He lauded the efforts of the department’s Special Investigation Unit which continued to be obstacle for wildlife crime syndicates, adding that their efforts were to be further bolstered during the coming year with more modern resources and equipment.

Somyo added his concern regarding sand mining which plagues areas such as the Wild Coast.

“Sand mining poses damage to the safety of dikes, bridges and local ecological environments and the department is committed to protect environmentally sensitive areas by combating environmental violations, despite resource constraints.”

He pointed out that the support for the new Wild Coast Environmental Management Plan which “has far wider government and public support than any previous development plans”.

However, he warned that the plan would fail if it was not enforced.

“This will result in lost economic opportunities and investment as is the case in Mngazana and Coffee Bay and environmental degradation which includes rampant sand mining, deforestation and uncontrolled linear urban sprawl.”

Furthermore, the department has ensured that resources are available to prevent illegal building outside identified development nodes.

He explained that protection of the province’s sensitive coastal environments remained paramount.