SA's natural wonders more popular than ever as globe rallies to conserve and celebrate the environment

2019-06-05 12:40 - Selene Brophy
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Woman's hands holding Earth. Ecology and saving pl

It's World Environment Day and as always, we're well aware our beautiful, natural spaces need so much more than just a day to ensure worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. 

However this long standing tradition, started in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries.  The travel and tourism industry in particular has rallied around the opportunity to highlight ways and means to conserve and protect our environment. 

'The green road to carbon neutrality'

This year the theme is focused “Air Pollution”, #BeatAirPollution.

SANParks Chief Executive Officer Fundisile Mketeni says Air Pollution, is of particular importance given its impact on Climate Change.

Air Pollution also impacts on our natural environment, altering habitats of animal and plants and is recognised as one of the biggest environmental risk to health in the world – which makes the push to be carbon neutral so vital, according to Mketeni.

SANParks is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2045 – and is currently assessing and quantifying the carbon footprint of all its 19 National Parks to  make SANParks ‘greener’ in its operations. While the timeframe seems long it is aimed at greenhouse gas emissions related to energy, air and vehicle travels across the parks. 

Initiatives currently in play include Tankwa Karoo National Park, close to Sutherland near the border of the Northern and Western Cape that is solely using renewable energy in their facilities.

Kruger National Park (KNP) on the other hand has constructed two ‘green buildings’ - the Skukuza Science Leadership Initiative Centre and the Skukuza Safari Lodge.

KNP also has eight solar plants throughout the park, based at Skukuza, Lower Sabie, Nkuhlu Picnic Spot, Tshokwane, Stolsnek Ranger Post, Pafuri, Shimuwini, and Sirheni. Lower Sabie operates on 100% solar during the day and electricity during the night, and Skukuza runs on 10% solar during the day.

In addition all ranger posts are now 100% solar run and tests for the transitioning to solar system at Head Office are underway. 

Spreading the message to upcycle

To mark World Environment Day, Emirates gave its old advertising billboards in South Africa a new lease of life, transforming the PVC Flex material into hundreds of reusable bags.

In an effort to spread the message of sustainability and make a positive impact on local communities, the advertising banners collected from across South Africa, were given a second life - the heavy-duty, PVC Flex material was upcycled to produce school bags that were donated to students of Emfundisweni Primary School in Alexandra. 

A total of 517 square meters of PVC Flex material was collected and sent to Johannesburg, where Emirates commissioned Soweto-based entrepreneur Raymond Phiri of Motion Bags to design and create the bags.

5% of SA’s oceans protected

South Africa is prioritising its oceans, with the official gazetting of 20 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Adding impetus to the swell of ocean conservation, Ocean iMPAct, a coalition of organisations including WILDOCEANS (a programme of the WILDTRUST), Ocean Unite and WWF-SA, Ocean iMPAct aims to advance the focus on the protection of the oceans around South Africa.

The ‘Only This Much’ campaign played a significant part in seeing the official expansion of  MPAs  as announced by South Africa’s cabinet in October 2018  - increasing protection from 0.4% to 5%.

The MPA target of 10% has been set for 2020 - and paving the way for African states to support a global target of 30% strongly protected by 2030.

 “MPAs are an essential tool for ocean health. They protect the oceans and the resources people depend on from risks such as climate change, over-fishing and mining. We look forward to supporting government to achieve the effective management of these new MPAs,”says Dr Jean Harris, WILDOCEANS Executive Director     

“We believe that the ‘Only This Much’ campaign played a significant part, working alongside responsible government institutions and with key civil society organisations, in helping to secure 5% marine protection in Year 1 of the project and aim to play a similar, supportive role this coming year in securing at least 10% in MPAs with the ‘Ocean iMPAct’ campaign,” said van Nijkerk.

READ: Endangered Species Day: What you need to know to help save SA's natural heritage

Cape Town

Some top sites you can visit this World Environment Day include: