Six top environmental NGOs HAVE called on government to release two important reports, compiled three years ago, in connection with environmental policy and sustainable development.
According to a statement issued by several NGOs – including BirdLife SA and the Botanical Society of SA – the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism collaboratively embarked on compiling two strategic planning reports, namely, the National Environmental Outlook, formerly the State of Environment Report and the National Framework for Sustainable Development, formerly the National Strategy for Sustainable Development. But so far, government has failed to make the reports public.
The NGOs want the reports to be urgently released because, they say, both studies represent independent, objective reviews of the opportunities and constraints to growth and development in South Africa posed by our natural resource base, and provide critical input to inform decisions at local, provincial and national levels, including key national strategies such as the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (Asgisa). The NGOs contend that, in the absence of these baseline and strategic reports, Asgisa and other development options are being decided upon in a planning vacuum which assumes that the country’s natural resources are infinite. The statement further reads: “As a country with dire socioeconomic imperatives, this information needs to be made public now, in order for all levels of governance to be better able to make sound planning decisions, as well as all levels of civil society to have confidence that the decisions being taken are correct, based on sound information and to the benefit of all. “In addition, several social and economic developments and imperatives are busy being rolled out – including the 2005/15 UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development and the draft national biofuels strategy. But growth targets for these are being set without due consideration of environmental opportunities and constraints, which are provided by these key documents. Instead, critical planning documents, which comprise up-to-date foundational information, are being overtaken by these roll-outs. “South Africa is highly regarded for its environmental laws, and government should perform its duty of safeguarding the tenets of democracy by providing information that enables effective decision-making and public participation. It should also give reason for the delay in releasing the two documents.” – Roelof Bezuidenhout