Govt commits to conserving grasslands

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pretoria - Government has committed itself to the conservation of grasslands biodiversity through the signing of a declaration, says Buyelwa Sonjica, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs.

The declaration was signed today by the minister and eight MECs responsible for environmental affairs in Gauteng, North West, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

According to the department, the goal is to sustain and secure biodiversity and associated ecosystem services of the grasslands biome for the benefit of current and future generations.

The declaration cites active measures to be taken that involve a wide range of interested and affected parties, including local communities and resource users, in the management and conservation of biodiversity in the grasslands biome.

The South African grasslands biome is the second largest biome in South Africa, covering an area of 339 237 kmý and it occurs in eight of South Africa's nine provinces.

The grasslands biome is one of the most threatened biomes in South Africa, with 30 percent irreversibly transformed and only 1.9 percent of the biodiversity target for the biome formally conserved.

Sonjica said that Grasslands contained the economic heartland of South Africa and produces the bulk of water needed to sustain human life and underpin economic growth.

"The grasslands biome provides essential ecosystems services, such as water production and soil retention necessary for economic development, and contains important biodiversity of global and domestic significance and value.

"Several of South Africa's priority river catchments occur in the grasslands biome, including the Thukela River catchment," Sonjica said.