World WetLands Day Celebrations 11 February 2020

MEC NOMANDLA BLOEM KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE WORLD WETLANDS DAY CELEBRATION IN BARKLEY WEST.
11 February 2020
Acting Head of Departments
Parents 
Senior Managers
Our Leaners 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning.
 
I am privileged to address the celebration of the Northern Cape edition of the World Wetlands Day under the theme: “Wetlands and Biodiversity”.
 
Wetlands are home to countless plants and animals that are part of a fragile balance where water and land become one. About 40% of world species live in wetlands.

We have various wetlands in Northern Cape including the Kamfersdam in Kimberley (which houses the Lesser Flamingos), The Eye in Kuruman, Hakskeenpan in the Kalahari, Orange River mouth in Alexander Bay and the Verneukpan in Calvinia.
 

Wetlands are amongst the most productive ecosystems in the world because they are a source of life giving waters that:
 
•Provide food to animals, plants and human beings, 
•Filter water to give us clean water, 
•Provide a place for animals to breed;
•Serve as stop-over sites for migrating birds;
•Function as a carbon sink;
•Serve as a buffer that stores water during floods and climate disasters; and 
•Prevent erosion.

Furthermore, wetlands have artistic, cultural, recreational, tourism and economical value. 

This has been made evident by the Kamfersdam which is playing host to the Lesser Flamingos and attracting tourists in to the city. Another tourism and economic spin off is that of the British Bloodhound Supersonic car which was hosted at the Hakskeenpan last year, to attempt the 1600 km/h word speed record. 

The fact that only 1% of the world’s water is suitable for human consumption further emphasizes the very importance of wetlands.

Despite these priceless and irreplaceable value of wetlands, the status of wetlands in the country and our Province remains a worrying factor.

The latest Global Biodiversity Assessment indicates that wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests.

The National Biodiversity Assessment also indicates that Wetlands are the most threatened of all South Africa’s ecosystems, with 79% of wetland ecosystems being threatened.

We are having a big challenge and it is because of human interference and the poor management of our wetlands.

We are destroying our wetlands by our irresponsible actions such as using wetlands as dumping site for our waste, plastic pollution which undermines the flood absorption and water storage capacity of our wetlands. 

There is a lot of overgrazing, over-abstraction of water, over harvesting of wetland resources, poor agricultural methods and different types of pollution among others.

Action must be taken to stop this killing of our wetlands!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, as the Provincial Government we have developed different programmes and projects to mitigate the challenges. 

Hence the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation will host a Waste Summit, from the 12th to 13th of March 2020 in Kimberley- where we are expecting all the role players to work together in finding lasting solutions to the waste problem.

A Climate Change Summit will also take place on 19 March 2020 in Kimberley to find innovative ways to address the effects of climate change in the Province.

We need local government, businesses, community members and learners to partner with us to prevent further loss of wetlands and restore those that we lost and still have.

The management and restoration of wetlands must form part of municipalities management plans. Municipalities can also establish environmental awareness campaigns to constantly sensitize the public about the importance and the value of wetlands.

We, as the local communities and learners can adopt a wetland in our areas and keep it clean, bearing in mind that a wise use of water and re-use of waste water become more and more important.

The harvesting of rain water can ease the pressure on our water sources, when we stop littering and polluting our wetlands.

Learners, Ladies and Gentlemen, let us report people to the municipality that destroy our wetlands. Let us be the example and others will follow.

Let us all invest in the natural infrastructure that wetlands provide. We can determine a positive life on earth and this year’s World Wetlands Day gives us an opportunity to start now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, urbanisation, changes in land use, agricultural expansion and climate change threaten the future of many species and habitats and ultimately, human existence.

According to an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report released in May 2019, approximately 85% of wetlands worldwide have been lost since the 1970s, and about 25% of species in assessed animal and plant groups are under threat. This suggests that about one million species will face extinction within decades.

Plants used as food are also in decline. The assessment, compiled by 145 experts from 50 countries over the past three years, found that local varieties and domesticated plants were also disappearing fast, with at least 559 of the 6 190 varieties used for food production reported extinct in 2016 and 1 000 more now are under threat.

While the value of crop production has increased almost threefold and raw timber production by 45% since the 1970s, land degradation has seen a 23% reduction in productivity.

Despite this, competition for land for conservation and agricultural production is expected to rise as population growth continues to drive higher food demand.

According to researchers, each plant species plays a role in the ecosystem, so its removal has knock-on effects on other plant and animal species in the system.
 
Biodiversity is also important for the survival of commercial crop species. The pool of tree and plant species should therefore be preserved to ensure a wide selection of genes if existing commercial varieties loose their appeal or productivity as soon as possible.

Preserving biodiversity is done most effectively when farmers work together.

Let us take a look at what landscape-level planning and projects, through partners such as LandCare are doing in our regions, and participate in these efforts to ensure we preserve natural veld. 

Another advantage of natural veld is that it usually increases the appeal of a farm, which in turn can open up new avenues for income generation through tourism activities, ranging from farm stays to hiking routes.

If well managed, it is clear that investment in nature can pay off in more than one way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy that we have seen Kamfersdam’s water levels picking up considerably, thanks to the recent rainfall in Kimberley, making it a true wetland and an attractive nesting site for Lesser Flamingos. 

The wetland covers some 400 hectares and has become an attractive home for thousands of Lesser Flamingos. 

The dam is one of only four breeding sites in Africa. The dam harbours high concentrations of blue-green algae and diatoms which form the main food sources for the flamingos. The wetland typically supports 20,000 Lesser Flamingos, but occasionally the population can be over 50,000 Lesser Flamingos.
 
The breeding season of the flamingos at Kamfers dam is around September to March only when the environmental factors are conducive. During the previous site visit on 20 December 2019 it was observed that the water level was declining at a faster rate, and no eggs were observed in nests. 

During the site visit in January 2020, it was observed that the water level has increased as compared to the previous site visit for the same period. 
 
This can be attributed to the rainfall that the city had experienced in the past weeks. 

The rise in water levels has prompted the flamingos to go back and start building new nests on the western edges of pan. 
 
In conclusion, the Wetlands are highly productive and biologically diverse systems that enhance water quality, control erosion, maintain stream flows, sequestrate carbon, and provide habitats to threatened and endangered species. 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen, our rich legacy of biodiversity comes with a huge responsibility of ensuring that our species and ecosystems are conserved and used sustainably for the benefit of all South Africans. 

Let us preserve our wetlands for the next generation, together we can do it!!
 
I thank you