World celebrates Day for Biological Diversity

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cape Town - Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Rejoice Mabudafhasi is expected to address a gala dinner to mark International Day for Biological Diversity on Thursday.

The day, declared by the United Nations, aims to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

The gala dinner forms part of a two-day conference on environmental resource economics, organised by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

The day will also be used to celebrate the soon-to-be gazetted National Biodiversity Framework (NBF).

The framework is an important milestone in the conservation arena and spells out the most urgent actions to be conducted to manage the country's biodiversity over the next five years.

It is also one of the achievements which have come out of the promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) in 2004.

"Several priority actions listed in the framework have already been initiated and these include the development of several planning tools and regulations," the department said.

Among the tools of the framework is the development of the regulations for the Alien and Invasive species (AIS). A draft of the regulation was published for public comment in April 2009 and the comments period has since closed and currently being processed, the department said.

Invasive alien plants are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity as well as the ecological and economic well being of society.

They exacerbate poverty and threaten development through their impact on agriculture, natural systems and forestry.

The increasing negative impact of climate change on ecosystems and species also aggravates the situation.

Speaking at the People and Parks Conference in September last year Ms Mabudafhasi highlighted that although much has been done to ensure the conservation of South Africa's protected areas, there were still challenges that exist.

"Despite our successes in the conservation of biodiversity and the expansion of the conservation estate, we are faced with serious challenges. These challenges include the threat to our globally recognised biodiversity hotspots, endemic and endangered species, river ecosystems, wetlands and estuaries," she said.

She noted that the protection of biodiversity hotspots depended on the involvement of local communities

The Convention on Biological Diversity, of which South Africa is a member, has adopted that all parties should promote full and effective participation of communities living in and around protected areas by 2008.

In 2005, government promulgated the Protected Areas Act and Biodiversity Act to promote access, equitable sharing of benefits and the active participation of communities living around protected areas.