Johannesburg – The reduction of Gauteng’s wetlands through property development is the result of poor town planning and the province’s lack of proactive protection for sensitive ecosystems, agriculture MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza has said.
The National Wetland Inventory has mapped more than 120 000 wetlands throughout the country, accounting for about 7% of South Africa’s surface area, the Business Day reported on Tuesday.
Commonly referred to as marshes, swamps or vleis, wetlands fulfil functions in ecosystems such as flood attenuation, provision of clean water and carbon storage.
They support a range of specialised plant, insect, bird and mammal life and also supply wild food, grazing, building and craft materials to humans.
Addressing a media briefing in Johannesburg on Monday, Mayathula-Khoza blamed the proliferation of development for encroaching on the province’s wetlands, saying this could have been prevented with advanced land-use planning.
“We have been reacting after a developer has moved in to try and save an ecosystem instead of proactively identifying these sensitive areas in advance and ensuring that they are protected and excluded from any form of development,” she said.
Mayathula-Khoza said she was banking on this becoming a thing of the past when the Gauteng Planning Commission, announced by Premier Nomvula Mokonyane this month, started functioning.
Mokonyane said the commission would undertake integrated strategic and spatial planning to facilitate improvements in the provincial government’s performance through monitoring and evaluation.