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‘Biodiversity key to economic growth’

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Despite millions of rand being spent on procuring land and farms, the poor and rural population of the Namakwa district had not reaped any benefits.

DAMAGE CONTROL: Jacobus Smit, Gamsberg biodiversity manager, Christo Witbooi, BMM corporate affairs and stakeholder relationships manager, Pauline Williams, Northern Cape MEC for Environment and Nature Conservation, Satish Kumar, Vedanta Zinc International vice president projects, and Sean Jenniker, BMC development manager, during the International Day of Biodiversity in Aggeneys on the weekend. Picture: Supplied

WITH ecosystems in the Northern Cape under threat from mining activities the MEC for Environment and Nature Conservation, Pauline Williams, warned that strict action would be taken for mines that damaged the environment.

During International Day for Biodiversity in Aggeneys last week, Williams stated that mines had to counterbalance the adverse environmental impact of atmospheric emissions.

“We must ensure that we conserve, manage and sustainably use biodiversity to ensure equitable benefits to the people of the Northern Cape, now and in the future.

“Biodiversity is recognised as fundamental to economic growth and sustainable development. The biodiversity economy has the potential to support a range of business and employment opportunities that promote alternative productive land uses and sustainable utilisation of biodiversity, especially in rural areas, such as through biotrade and bioprospecting, the wildlife and marine wildlife sectors and ecotourism.”

She pointed out that despite millions of rand being spent on procuring land and farms for the biodiversity offset agreement, the poor and rural population of the Namakwa district had not reaped any benefits.

Williams suggested that the agreement be revisited to ensure that each purchased farm created at least 10 jobs.

“I have been to one of the offset farms this afternoon and clearly the infrastructure at the farm, including game, needs maintenance and care. We cannot purchase the farms and hand them over to SanParks to manage on our behalf because that simply means we will be abdicating our responsibilities.”

She added that the Namakwa, ZF Mgcawu and John Taolo Gaetsewe districts had been prioritised for the development of bioprospecting and biotrade.

“I have been reliably told that Minister Edna Molewa has identified the Northern Cape as a priority province for biodiversity economy. I have also been informed that her department will provide infrastructure support for new and emerging entrepreneurs in the wildlife economy sector through the Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) funding opportunities. This includes processing plants and a mobile abattoir among others.”