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Do Good Green Deeds for a better SA

The Good Green Deeds campaign is set to mobilise South Africans to become conscious of their impact on the environment.

Launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in Mdantsane recently, the campaign started off with the President picking up rubbish at a taxi rank while Eastern Cape MECs, national Ministers and Buffalo City Metro council members cleaned up the popular eBuhlanti Beach and estuary.

Similar initiatives took place across the country, from Galeshewe to Mahikeng, Umsunduzi to Ladybrand, Polokwane to Sharpeville and Manenberg to Mamelodi.

President Ramaphosa called for a change in behaviour in a bid to clean up the environment, saying that a clean environment would help boost tourism and ultimately the economy.

“We have one of the most magnificent countries in the world, with a beautiful coastline, and on land, an abundance of plant and animal life, some of which are found nowhere else on earth. This is what draws millions of tourists to our country every year.”

The President said littering by individuals and industries amounted to being “at war with our planet” and called on all to manage the environment better. He added this recklessness with the environment affects everyone and has negative consequences for the economy, the environment and the health and safety of communities

“Littering, illegal dumping and the pollution of our air, our streams, our rivers and our oceans have had negative effects on our health, our quality of life and on the very appearance of our country,” said President Ramaphosa.

“Instead of putting litter into waste bins, we toss it out onto the streets. Instead of managing our waste, we dump it in places it is not supposed to be. Instead of flushing dirty water into a sewerage system where it can be treated, we throw it into our rivers and streams, and even into the sea.”

Safety of people and wildlife

He called on everyone to be conscious of their impact on the environment, as well as the safety of others and wildlife.

“When we throw glass bottles out of a car window it makes that same road unsafe for pedestrians, for cyclists and for other road users. When, as municipalities, we let mounds of trash build up in illegal landfills and dumpsites, it attracts pests and disease. When industries illegally dump hazardous waste and don’t properly dispose of water used in industrial processes, surrounding communities are badly affected. All this makes our planet sick, and it makes us sick. It makes our children sick. It is time for change.”

Calling on all to do one good green deed a day, President Ramaphosa said the Good Green Deeds campaign was the brainchild of the late Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, whom he described as a true champion of the environment and the campaign.

“She was active in driving its conception and it is really in her honour that we see its realisation. The late Minister was also a passionate climate change ambassador. She worked very hard to raise awareness not just locally but internationally as well.

“In your neighbourhood, school or municipality, you must be the agent of change we want and need. We hope the Good Green Deeds campaign will be embraced with vigour and enthusiasm in all municipalities around South Africa.”

Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said the taxi industry would be roped in to participate in the campaign.

Rapid urbanisation a waste management challenge

President Ramaphosa said waste- management challenges municipalities face include the rapid rate of migration into cities and population growth.

“This leads to more waste being generated despite diminishing space for landfills. Recycling rates remain extremely low. We are also dealing with the effects of a bitter legacy. Because of forced removals and land dispossession, our people were squashed into areas that weren’t fit for human settlement at all.

“Many of our communities were forcibly relocated to areas adjacent to industrial areas where, in the absence of laws to protect their rights, industries were free to pollute at will, resulting in devastating consequences for human health.”

He added that the democratic government has been turning the tide and introducing new environmental rights and laws. Currently, the number of South African households with access to waste services is close to 80 percent, compared to 55 percent in 2001.

Households that have refuse removal at least once a week grew from 56 percent in 2002 to approximately 66 percent in 2017 and “is on the rise”.

“The increase is a step in the right direction; yet we know we can still do more. We must do more to build the capacity of local government to provide services to our people.”

Municipalities playing their part

The President said that government would encourage municipalities through initiatives like the Greenest Municipality Competition.

“Examples are the City of Johannesburg’s “A Re Sebetseng” (let us work) initiative, a mayoral clean-up initiative in the Rustenburg Local Municipality, and community clean-ups in the City of Umhlathuze. There is also impressive work under way right here in Buffalo City. The Adopt-a-Spot Project focuses on street sweeping, gutter clearing, clearing illegal dumps, awareness campaigns, the erection of ‘No Dumping Signs’ and the planting of vegetables.”

The Buffalo City Municipality is also focusing on supporting the recycling economy by upgrading buy-back centres, leading waste-separation-at-source initiatives and street cleaning.

“More buy-back centres will be built and refuse removal services in rural areas will be extended. Also, right here in Buffalo City, we are piloting a project for the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste in partnership with the Swedish Government. Under this partnership, we plan to develop a general household waste management model that will inform waste service provision in informal settlements,” said President Ramaphosa.

The Swedish Government, through its development agency SIDA, has committed R8 million towards the project.

“Better waste management practices also enable us as a country to address climate change because landfills are a source of emissions of gases that contribute towards global warming.”

Clean environment is a constitutional right

The President added that the right to a clean environment is contained in South Africa’s Bill of Rights.

“Our Constitution is clear that the environment should be conserved and protected not just for current but future generations as well.”

He said it is for “those yet to come” that we are embarking upon a new era of consciousness.

The Good Green Deeds campaign was launched on International Women’s Day which, President Ramaphosa said, was significant because women – especially in developing countries – are most affected by climate change.

“In many parts of the world, it is women who till the lands and the crops, and who walk long miles in search for water and firewood to sustain their families. Because of this, it is women who most feel the effects of a degraded environment when these sources of sustenance disappear.

“While the future of our planet lies in the hands of us all, I want to make a call for youth in particular to be the champions of this campaign.”

He urged the youth to be at the forefront of raising awareness about protecting the environment.

“We want you to be at the forefront of clean-up campaigns; and to gain exposure to municipal environmental management functions as a source of attaining work experience. Let us all take ownership of this country that is South Africa, and of this planet that is our only home.”

The President called on citizens to commit to each doing one Good Green Deed a day, “for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of others, and for the sake of our country. A clean environment is feasible and is necessary and, ultimately, will become an important source of national pride”.

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