The R7.7-billion budgeted for environmental programmes between 2012/13 and 2014/15 will provide 205 877 work opportunities and 102 603 full-time equivalent jobs, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told lawmakers on Wednesday.
She said the focus being given to the green economy in the New Growth Path, which aimed to facilitate the creation of five-million new jobs by 2020, made it “incumbent upon us to debunk the myth that environment management hinders development”.
“This green economy offers substantial opportunities for job creation and development in the environmental goods and services sector, particularly in biodiversity, waste and natural resource management services,” she said in her Budget vote address.
Her statement was in line with a recent ‘Green Jobs’ report produced jointly by the Industrial Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. The report said there was an opportunity to create 98 000 new direct jobs in the short term and around 462 000 employment opportunities in the formal economy by 2025 by pursuing efforts to green the South African economy.
The bulk of these prospects were said to reside in the area of natural resource management, where some 232 926 jobs, or 50.4% of the total, could be created through employing people to conserve and restore ecosystems, such as grasslands and wetlands, or to improve soil and land management.
Funding for such environmental programmes had been bolstered by additional allocation of R1.1-billion over the three-year period for the Working for Water and Working on Fire programmes.
During the current fiscal year, the department aimed to use the funding to create 62 860 work opportunities and 31 277 full-time equivalent jobs. Last year, the programmes created 26 700 new work opportunities amounting to 11 676 full-time equivalent jobs and 26 891 accredited training person days.
Through the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi), 800 unemployed school leavers and graduates, mostly from rural areas, would also be placed in biodiversity jobs for an incubation period of two-and-a-half years. Sanbi had received R300-million from the Jobs Fund for the initiative, dubbed ‘Catalysing Access to Employment and Job Creation in Ecosystem Management’.
The National Treasury had also made R800-million available for a ‘Green Fund’ over the coming two years to support projects designed to help South Africa transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient and job-creating economy. The objective of the fund was to provide catalytic finance for green economy projects and mainstreaming activities, which would not have been implemented without fiscal support.
Molewa said the programmes would have economic, employment and environmental spinoffs, quoting a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research estimate that the Working for Water programme had yielded water savings worth R400-billion as a result of the removal of water-sapping alien plants. Similarly, the Working on Fire initiative had played a role in restricting the damage associated with forests fires.