Chapter 11: Environmental Outlook for Limpopo Province: Planning for the Future

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1 Limpopo Environmental Outlook Report st DRAFT Chapter 11: Environmental Outlook for Limpopo Province: Planning for the Future This document is an ongoing outcome of a consultative process that underpins the Limpopo Environmental Outlook Report (LEO) It can be quoted only with the explicit and written permission of LEDET. It has been reviewed by specialists in the field, as well as members of the provincial Steering Committee for the LEO Project. All LEO Reports are distributed as widely as possible, for inputs and comments. This document was prepared by EcoAfrica under the aegis of Limpopo Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET), for stakeholders to engage with the environmental assessment and reporting. Its date of release is the 11 th January,

2 Table of Contents 1. Introduction Impact Mapping Planetary Boundaries Tipping Points for Limpopo s Environment Water Resources Waste Management Land Transformation Climate Change Environmental Governance Conclusion 7 4. Way Forward

3 1. Introduction The evolution of this Limpopo Environment Outlook Report involved a multi-pronged process including desktop research, assessment of existing environmental reporting processes at the provincial, national and global levels, as well as targeted stakeholder engagement. The identification of a number of key environmental issues facing the Limpopo Province informed the selection of an Indicator Framework and a set of indicators within the 10 main themes that are covered in previous chapters of this report. These themes discuss the existing state of Limpopo s environment and suggest how current trends may develop further given the existing actions, policies and strategies and future governance and development goals. 1.1 Impact Mapping Recent Environment Outlook Reports in South Africa (including the national Environment Outlook Reports (SAEO) and the North West Environment Outlook Report, have used impact mapping as a tool to project how present environmental impacts and trends may further manifest. To achieve this, variables that characterise the environment are identified and then pieced together to illustrate the causes and effects of environmental change. The state of our environment is a complex array of dynamic cause-effect relationships between different variables, some of which involve natural processes while others are impacted by anthropogenic processes and activities. For instance, a change in climate, caused by both natural and anthropogenic forces, will result in changes in rainfall and temperature. The change in rainfall will result in changes in rivers and changes in habitats. Changes in runoff and temperature will result in changes in soil moisture, land degradation, fire regimes, vegetation and potential productivity of the land. This process of Impact Mapping illustrates the cause-effect relationships between the key environmental, social and economic variables that give rise to impacts, will be investigated for the LEO Report. To accurately identify and illustrate these connections, a collaborative process will need to be undertaken with key stakeholders in the coming weeks, prior to finalization of the Environment Outlook for the Province. This approach will be further discussed and decided upon with the Project Management Team from LEDET. 1.2 Planetary Boundaries Another conceptual framework which may be investigated when finalising the Limpopo Environment Outlook is that of planetary boundaries. This conceptual framework aims to estimate the safe distance from thresholds of specific global environmental change processes or dimensions. When these thresholds are crossed, they will take humanity into uncertain environmental territory (Cole et al. 2014). The key processes considered under this methodology include: i. climate change, ii. ocean acidification, iii. freshwater use, iv. land-use change, v. biodiversity loss, vi. nutrient cycles (nitrogen and phosphorous), vii. ozone depletion, viii. atmospheric aerosol loading, ix. chemical pollution; 3

4 x. poverty eradication; and xi. environmental sustainability. Cole, et al. (2014), have since applied these concepts to South Africa through the development of a decision-based methodology for downscaling the framework and have created a national barometer for South Africa. By combining 20 indicators and boundaries for environmental stress and social deprivation, they show that South Africa has exceeded its environmental boundaries for biodiversity loss, marine harvesting, freshwater use, and climate change. The results further indicate that arable land use, phosphorous loading, and air pollution are close to exceeding their boundaries and that social deprivation is most severe in the areas of safety, income, and employment. The approach reveals that trends since 1994 show improvement in nearly all social indicators, but movement toward boundaries (climate change and freshwater use), or over boundaries for most environmental indicators Cole, et al. (2014). Figure 2 below illustrates the national barometer for inclusive sustainable development in South Africa. According to Cole et al.: The green areas represent the safe and just space, beyond which is excessive environmental stress (A) and social deprivation (B), shown in red. The grey wedges measure the national status for each dimension compared to its boundary as a percentage (0% at the centre, 100% at the boundary), striped wedges show indicators still to be determined, the black dividing lines delineate the three types of environmental boundaries (A) or the four social domains (B) (2014: 5). Figure 1: A national barometer for inclusive sustainable development in South Africa. (from Cole et al. 2014) While this concept of the national barometer for inclusive sustainable development in South Africa is still under development, for both at the national and sub-national levels in South Africa, it provides a very interesting foundation to draw from for the development of the LEO Report and a useful framework for determining a Provincial barometer to highlight options for the future. The opportunity for developing composite indices for the Limpopo Province will be further considered during the LEO process. 4

5 2. Tipping Points for Limpopo s Environment The LEO Report presented at this stage, while not complete, is informed by the key findings of the individual thematic Discussion Documents, and show how the trends of these key findings may change in future. The various previous environmental assessments for the country and the Province, and the findings of the current Environmental Outlook process have highlighted several key issues and threats to sustainability in the Limpopo Province. If not effectively dealt with, these tipping points, could have catastrophic consequences. For current purposes, these tipping points are simply highlighted as areas requiring urgent attention. Appropriate interventions for these critical focus areas and options for action will be further examined through ongoing consultation and agreement as this LEO Report is finalized. The tipping points mentioned below are critical issues that must be addressed to curb the further environmental deterioration for Limpopo and ensure a path of recovery that will support ongoing economic and social development in the Province. 2.1 Water Resources Water is a critical issue facing not only Limpopo Province, but South Africa as a whole. The current drought illustrates the reliance on clean water. As a water-scarce country, currently experiencing severe drought conditions throughout, water resources remains one of the most important tipping points to address. An assured supply of water of a good quality is paramount to the Province. Findings of the assessment indicate that the state of water availability, the quality of water available and the ecosystem goods and services supplied by aquatic ecosystems are in decline. This due to limited available sources, over-utilisation (beyond the ecological reserve) of existing resources and increases in pollution of the existing sources. Furthermore the current supply of available and renewable water in the Province is inadequate in relation to rising demand. This will result in restricted socio-economic development and potentially stir conflicts between economic sectors. To ensure sustainable water resource use in Limpopo, the management of water resources needs to be mainstreamed and placed at the forefront of all planning. Institutional and regulatory capacity needs to be urgently strengthened, particularly with respect to monitoring, management and increasing the availability and capacity of decision-making tools. In addition, water use behaviour needs to change among all sectors and users, and water conservation and water demand management measures need to be more effectively implemented. 2.2 Waste Management Waste management is a critical and increasingly a key concern across the Province. Increasing incidences of pollution and the negative impacts thereof on human and environmental health and wellbeing require urgent and proactive active responses from government, the private sector and civil society at large. The degradation of ecosystem health and productivity and the subsequent economic losses will continue unabated if waste management in the Province is not addressed as a matter of top priority. 5

6 Key actions needed include the finalisation and implementation of Local Municipality IWMPs. In addition, more effective monitoring and planning for hazardous waste disposal is required across the Province. The performance of general formal and informal waste sites needs priority attention in terms of effective monitoring at the local level. 2.3 Land Transformation Land is the basis of many life support systems, from production of biomass that provides food, fodder, fibre, and fuel for human use, to being an essential natural resource in other respects. A diverse climatic variation within Limpopo, allows the Province to produce a diversity of agricultural outputs, ranging from extensive cattle and game farms to intensive horticultural production. Since agriculture accounts for 90% (11.3 million ha) of the Province s 12.6 million ha land area, land represents a critical issue for residents in the Province. To avoid further adverse land transformation, improved management of 2 key agricultural areas are critical. These include stocking pressure, particularly in areas of land under communal tenure, and the subsistence or small farmer cropping component. Results from the assessment appear to indicate that grazing capacity is diminishing due to overgrazing and inadequate area availability for current livestock levels. As a result grassland areas are transforming at a rapid rate. In addition, increased irrigation presents a concern for current and future water resource limitations. From a management and planning perspective, more detailed and regular spatial information is required if detailed planning, monitoring and control is to be successful. 2.4 Climate Change Climate change is becoming increasingly apparent in Limpopo Province. The usual manifestations of climate change are evident by the long term changes in weather indicators such as rainfall or temperature. Limpopo is perhaps the most vulnerable Province to climate change in South Africa. In addition to the multiple pressures from poverty, inadequate housing and poor access to services, the Province faces a predicted high increase in temperatures, strong variations in rainfall patterns and more frequency of extreme events. The consequences of experienced extreme events between 2014 and 2015 have highlighted the need for greater preparation of the Province to handle climate variations and for the implementation of frameworks and strategies to address mitigation and adaptation. Appropriate changes in governance to improve resilience, notably the integration and effective implementation of mitigation and adaptation plans at local municipality level. 2.5 Environmental Governance Environmental governance is a cross-cutting theme that touches on all environmental issues in the Province. The need for stronger environmental governance is well recognised as is the link between a sustainable and effectively protected environment and the numerous benefits for economic development and social health and wellbeing. Some key policies, laws and structures are in place in the Limpopo Province, and a few more are under development. The presence of such frameworks and tools, requires urgent and effective implementation. 6

7 Shortfalls in resources, skills and capacity must be addressed to ensure: i) alignment and implementation of key policies, plans and laws that pertain to environmental management at the different levels of government within the Province; ii) strengthened Institutional structures and capacities and increased staff and resources for essential environmental management functions; iii) collaboration among government sectors, different levels of government and other parties to promote and support cooperative environmental governance; and iv) support for environmental observation, research and monitoring to inform decision-making and improve risk identification and mitigation. 3. Conclusion It is clear from the preceding chapters and the tipping points elaborated above, that the assessment of top environmental issues in the Limpopo Province require dedicated and focussed attention and intervention, in order to stem the further degradation of environmental resources. In many regards the top Outlook issue of improving the management of water resources is perhaps the fulcrum around which many other issues revolve. The planning related to the protection of water resources seems to require elevation to the highest levels and will thus influence all aspects of environmental management and future planning in the Limpopo Province. 4. Way Forward The 1 st DRAFT LEO Report has been compiled to stimulate discussion. The chapters now need to be discussed with stakeholders and the comments need to be considered and incorporated where relevant. The integration of information during the formulation of the 2 nd DRAFT LEO Report will further develop thinking and discussion around the presentation of specific environmental trends, and include what positive aspects need to be built on, and what concerns need urgent attention. 7

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