Job creation tops environmental agenda

6 June 2012

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa celebrated World Environment Day on Tuesday by announcing plans to create over 60 000 new jobs this year – and 300 000 new jobs by 2020 – with the focus on women, the youth and people with disabilities.

Molewa attended the annual World Environment Day celebrations in Mangaung, Bloemfontein and spoke about the department’s plans to step up environmental protection and preservation efforts.

“We as South Africa are part of the global campaign to promote sustainable development and also are proponents of the global drive towards a green economy,” Molewa said.

Job creation is an integral part of South Africa’s efforts to join the global drive towards sustainable development. “This year the department, through the entire suite of programmes within our environmental programmes branch, aims to create job opportunities for about 62 860,” she said.

“We also aim to ensure that 55% of beneficiaries from our programmes are women, 40% are youth and 2% are people with disabilities.”

Environmental protection programmes

These targets will be achieved through the department’s programmes and sub- programmes.

Working for Water, Working for Wetlands and Working on Fire are the department’s biggest and most successful initiatives so far, but the sub-programmes of the environmental protection and infrastructure programmes were heralded as growing contributors to sustainable development and job protection.

These are made up of Working on Waste, Working for the Coast, People and Parks, and Sustainable Land Based Livelihood.

“We are a country endowed with a rich and diverse biodiversity that enables thousands of jobs in different sectors,” she said. “Our diverse biodiversity is our competitive edge in growing our economy while at the same time addressing climate change and we are doing that through our environment programmes.”

Working for Water is particularly successful: it was established in 1995 and has over the years created 397 146 work opportunities. It aims to combat the impact of alien invasive species on our water security, diversity, use of land, wild fires and erosion.

“It is a programme that has exceptional returns on investment, and I want to emphasise that these jobs are vital for our long-term economic future,” she added.

Working for Wetlands was founded in 2004 and has rehabilitated over 800 wetlands, creating 15 000 jobs for mostly marginalised rural communities. The project focuses on the rehabilitation, protection and sustainable use of South Africa’s 110 000 wetlands.

“Working on Fire also recruits from disadvantaged backgrounds and offers work opportunities to 4 800 fire fighters in 107 bases around South Africa in 2011/12 alone,” Molewa said.

Working for the future

Working on Waste looks at waste collection, disposal and recycling initiatives. “In this regard we provide support to the municipalities in terms of handling of waste and this includes assistance in the construction of landfill sites and buy-back centres where appropriate.”

Working for the Coast programmes deal with cleaning and rehabilitating coastal environmental assets and infrastructure; People and Parks projects support the development of infrastructure in and around protected areas; and Sustainable Land Based Livelihood focuses on projects which encourage restoration, rehabilitation and re-vegetation of degraded areas.

A total of 2 788 jobs were created in the implementation of these sub-projects. “All the employed people have been trained on various skills programmes ranging from bricklaying in the construction sector to waste management in the environmental sector,” she said.

“Although we can still do more and we certainly will, we are delighted with this achievement because it debunks the myth that environment management hinders development. When you work for the environment, the environment will work for you.”

The bigger picture enjoyed the same success. According to Molewa, 26 896 jobs were created overall by the environmental protection and infrastructure programmes in 2011/12.

It is full steam ahead for the department going forward, and the injection of R800- million over the next two years from the National Treasury’s Green Fund will assist its green economy implementation plan.

“We will utilise this funding in a manner that seeks to attract new and additional investment, stimulate job creation and lay the foundations for South Africa’s transition to a low carbon, job-creating and resource-efficient growth path,” she explained.

“We are extending partnerships to key international funding institutions such as the World Bank Clean Technology Fund and the newly established Green Climate Fund.”

It is through these partnerships and the government’s joining of the Green Economy Accord – dubbed as one of the most comprehensive social pacts on green jobs in the world – that the department plans to create 300 000 new jobs by 2020.

Working towards this will provide exciting new opportunities for the country’s youth and Molewa urged all young South Africans to get involved. “Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare themselves today.”

SAinfo reporter