Human rights day
21 March was Human Rights Day. The environment is often a forgotten aspect of human rights. The South African constitution in Section 24 spells this out and it is worth repeating in full:
- Everyone has the right—
- to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing; and
- to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that—
- (i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
- (ii) promote conservation; and
- (iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.
In 2012, the UN surveyed its 193 member countries and found that the overwhelming majority had constitutional protection for the right to a healthy and protected environment. Hold-outs included North Korea, Australia, China and the US.
South Africa is in good company in placing the environment in our Bill of Rights – but are we also in good company only paying lip service to this right? China is known for major violations of their environment but so is India, a country that as of 2012 did claim to protect the environment.
One area where we have been extremely remiss is placing the interests of mining ahead of the environment. Acid mine drainage, pushing coal when its time is clearly up and pressure to mine pristine coastal regions in the northern part of our province are examples.
This is not about stopping all mining: a proper application of Section 24 would require that much stronger emphasis be put on harm prevention and harm minimization than is currently the case, including assessing long-term costs and benefits, and rehabilitation of mined land. One Eastern Cape Organization fighting for this balance is the Amadiba Crisis Committee who have been fighting off titanium mining and other unsustainable developments in Pondoland, sometimes at high personal cost. In 2016, one of their strongest activists, Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Rhadebe was murdered.
We should learn the lesson of Nigeria where massive oil extraction has benefited a tiny minority while destroying fishing and agriculture for large numbers. Rapid development without concern for sustainability can in the long run take the economy backwards so it is not a question of development or environment – we need to consider both.
More here: https://www.facebook.com/amadibacrisiscommittee
Greening Grahamstown Project
The environment is not just about wild spaces but also where we live. Humans are largely urban creatures so the urban environment is our environment. If our streets are a dirty ugly mess, it affects our quality of life. For this reason, the Greening Grahamstown Project is important. I thank Mike Powell for his report that follows.
Over the years the CBD of Grahamstown has become tatty and lost a large amount of its charm, dignity and functionality. Grahamstown is home to a diverse range of institutions and nationally important events and there is a need to improve the aesthetics of all the urban open green spaces. A number of institutions (Makana Parks Department, Grahamstown Residents Association, the Grahamstown Business Forum, Rhodes University and Makana Revive) have started an initiative to bring back the appeal of the city centre.
The first phase of the project is taking all the centre islands in High Street and giving them a complete make-over (landscaping and greening). The vision is to celebrate the rich botanical diversity of the eastern Cape, simultaneously making the city beautiful. The Project is being led by Mongamo Dlulemnyango (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kwanele Mbangi (KwaneleMbangi@makana.gov.za), with support from a large group of volunteers who have donated time, expertise and resources.
If you would like to become involved and or make donation (including plants) to the project, please contact Grahamstown Residents Association: email@example.com.
Find us Online: www.grocotts.co.za/environews
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