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Oct 18, 2012

SA must determine route to sustainable development – expert

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South Africa would have to find ways of achieving sustainable development, as the country’s cities were expected to triple in size over the next 50 years, Dan Epstein, head of sustainability for the London Olympics, said Thursday.

He told Engineering News Online that South Africa was not faring well in terms of sustainable development, especially compared with Scandinavian countries, which were the front-runners in this regard.

South Africa’s heavily road-dependent transport sector and its coal-driven power generation sector contributed greatly to its unsustainable status.

Epstein said the country could learn a lot from the £8-billion London Olympic Park construction project, in the derelict Stratford district, in east London.

The same size as Venice, the 2.5 km2 park contains various sports centers and a stadium, as well as a 100 ha park and athlete accommodation that can all be used beyond the Olympics Games.

With sustainability at the heart of the park’s design, 25% of materials used during construction were from recycled sources, with 90% of the rubble created in the demolition of over 220 associated buildings being reused in the project.

Targets were set to enhance the area’s environmental health status; the park was built to allow for a 50% reduction in carbon emissions and a 40% reduction in water use.

The seven-year project also involved the upgrading of the subway, railway and other infrastructure, while transferring skills and creating jobs.

Epstein explained that before construction could start, an extensive soil-cleaning operation had to be undertaken to rid the ground of contaminants deposited in the Stratford area when it was still London’s industrial and manufacturing hot-spot.

Speaking at a sustainable development workshop, in Johannesburg, he pointed out that funding was not the major factor holding back sustainable development globally, but “attitude and behavior.”

Epstein said the aim of the workshop was to get persons from South Africa’s construction sector to discuss how sustainable development could be achieved in their country.

He added that those attending the workshop would have to carry over their view of how local authorities and other role-players could implement the same eight principles that were applied in the London Olympic Park development project, when taking on sustainable development projects.

These principles were high quality, cultural richness, strong community, connectivity, economic resilience, environmental health, resource security and climate resilience.

“Government has a great responsibility and big role to play here,” Epstein noted.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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