Water security is the biggest threat facing our country and the South African public should be taking water issues more seriously, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has said.
“We’re naturally a country with water limits – it’s the life blood of our existence,” Dr Morné Du Plessis CEO of WWF South Africa.
He made his remarks as the WWF celebrated 50 years with the striking of a silver R2 coin on Table Mountain last Thursday.
The conservation body has been a persistent activist for the protection of endangered animals, but also tackles wider environmental issues like climate change and renewable energy. It has lobbied the government to ensure that SA uses 100% renewable energy by 2050.
“Certainly we have a pre-occupation with catchments, so let’s not think about building more dams in our fynbos areas. There is surplus water we can and should be using,” said Du Plessis.
In Cape Town, there are several natural water springs that are not directed into the water network, and the WWF has previously urged the government to make use of these springs in the city’s water system.
The City of Cape Town has connected one of the springs to the Cape Town Stadium precinct, but told News24 recently that it was cost prohibitive to connect all the springs.
“That one [spring] cost a few million rand, about R20m, and all the springs have different origins. One has to look at the quality of the water,” said Farouk Robertson of the City of Cape Town recently.
Du Plessis challenged South Africans’ attitude to water.
“What I would ask is: ‘Do we take water issues seriously enough?’”
The WWF has initiated a programme to ensure that the total costs of products is included in the price. In several Asian countries, the environmental costs of manufacturing is borne by the population as companies compete to produce consumer goods at lower prices.
“Our conservation policy is that one should not externalise costs. We’re investigating the full costs of the product life cycle with Market Transformation Initiative,” said Du Plessis.
This programme targets companies that sell consumer goods and encourages them to include environmental costs in the costing of the product.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has warned that greed and social inequality is a serious threat to attempts to make progress in protecting the environment.
“We are meant to live in a world which we share, and we are meant to live as members of one family. And yet whenever we look around, isn’t it devastating to see the inequities and levels of poverty?
“Our population is increasing, environmental degradation is increasing. How do we resolve these inequities when all we are told is growth, growth, growth?” said Tutu.
As SA prepares to host the COP17 (The 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) conference in Durban, the WWF feels that the country has the correct environmental policies.
“We prefer to see the glass as half full. We’re positive about environment in South Africa, but there are serious challenges, first of which is our addiction to fossil fuel,” Du Plessis said.