Our vision for the metro…

The municipality recently invited residents, NGOs, CBOs, business chambers, civic groups and other stakeholders to submit their input in the redefining of the metro’s vision and long-term development plan (IDP). Of course we couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this, so here is our submission…

Vision for Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan

Overall context and guideline: Development as if people mattered.

We are convinced that it is crucial for the NMBM Vision to be informed by the global challenges related to peak oil, climate change and the limits to growth, as these will dramatically impact on future sustainable living in the metro. The PED Nexus[1] seminars held in 2010 to which NMBTN members made important contributions, and which culminated with the very successful LEAD International Cohort 15[2], provided critical insights to these challenges and suggestions on the way forward that we trust will be seriously considered in the creation of the vision.

Within this context, we identify a number of key issues that need to be addressed: 

a. Local Food Security

The threat to food security in the metro continues to grow as the input and distribution costs of conventional food production escalate. With unemployment rates as high as they are in the region, a large portion of the population will find it increasingly difficult to feed themselves and their families. This is an unnecessary struggle that can be avoided in a number of ways which involve localizing the production, distribution, and consumption of food in and around the metro, coupled with a shift toward more ecological methods of production. By bringing food production back into the metro (e.g. community supported and urban agriculture), the doors open for employment opportunities (also empowering the poor at their most needy level) and increased biodiversity, while also ensuring fresh food remains affordable for all its residents.

b. Biodiversity Conservation

Nelson Mandela Bay, with five biomes within its boundaries, has the potential to be one of the most ecologically attractive metropolitans in the world. We wish to see the value of such diversity realized with particular effort going in to its rehabilitation and conservation. Extensive planting of indigenous trees and other plant species should therefore be considered in parks and green belt areas in order to rehabilitate and maintain ecosystem services. However, this biodiversity should exist not only in parks and protected areas but be integrated within the urban and suburban landscape. The benefits of these efforts are vast and include long-term employment opportunities in conservation, rehabilitation, education and eco-tourism. We congratulate the Metro for the well researched and carefully put together Bioregional Plan that could be used to help educate the public on both the value of our precious biodiversity and the dangers of its destruction.

c. Waste management

In order to maintain good health of the environment and residents within the metro, the issue of waste must also be addressed. With land fills already under considerable strain, damaging the immediate environment and releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, it is important that steps be taken to drastically reduce the amount of waste the metro produces. Part of this would involve increased focus on recycling and the use of biodegradable packaging instead of plastics. Waste reduction and recycling is the responsibility of not only the residents of the metro, but that of the corporate and industrial sectors as well.

Increased support for creative recycling initiatives at grassroots level (such as Noziqhamo Art & Craft & Recycling in Motherwell) also becomes particularly important as waste materials are used to create functional as well as decorative items with very little energy inputs. Not only does this reduce strain on land fills, but also provides very creative employment opportunities.

 d. Resource conservation

Because of the scarcity of water in the region, and energy supply being unreliable throughout the nation, any new structures being built must be designed and constructed with these issues in mind. Rain water harvesting, grey water recycling, renewable energy generation etc should become key elements in every design. Existing structures should, as far as possible, be adapted in the same way in order to reduce current strain on our dams and energy grid. For example: roof space of existing structures throughout the metro should be utilized for installation of solar photovoltaic panels that could then feed back into the grid. The project of FWFTP (Fish Water Flat Treatment Plant) to recycle waste water is a move in the right direction, though in the long-term, the vision should be to relocate the works from the danger of rising sea levels, storm surges and floods that are projected to become more frequent with global warming (such extreme weather events have been witnessed over the last year in Russia and Australia and presently in USA and South America). With water scarcity likely to get worse, the long term vision should consider moving away from high energy, high maintenance water borne sewage treatment systems to low-capital expenditure, low-energy alternatives that are already available.

e. Sustainable development

Commerce and industry have particularly important roles to play in reducing the negative ecological impact and fossil fuel dependence of our metro. The Coega IDZ has immense potential to assist this transition to a low-carbon economy and society should it begin to target specific industries such as manufacturing in renewable energy generation. Apart from creating a large number of long-term, sustainable jobs, it would set the pace toward a sustainable future. According to a recent study by the IPCC[3], “Renewable energy could account for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades – but only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power”

Currently Coega is attracting dirty, energy-intensive industries (such as an oil refinery) which will completely counteract this vision of a low-carbon metro that is people-centered, and locally resilient. Such environmentally destructive industries do not provide long-term sustainable benefit to the majority of the metro’s people, and the negative health impacts are well known (as experienced with refineries aroundDurbanfor example).

Greater attention also needs to go into local manufacturing and distribution to local markets. This encourages a much stronger and more resilient local economy than one that is too dependent on foreign markets, the servicing of which will become ever more problematic with rising energy costs due to peak oil. Achieving this growth in the development of local enterprises will require considerable skills training and education that will further empower residents in and around the metro.

f. Education

If we are to create a society that is resilient,  able to overcome the challenges of fossil fuel depletion and climate change, and sustain itself into the future, then the issue of education is of primary importance and needs to be given utmost priority (with particular focus on human development). With environmental and sustainability issues becoming increasingly demanding, they should provide the framework for the rest of the curriculum. Programs such as WESSA’s EcoSchools and those of Food & Trees For Africa then become of utmost importance, where young minds gain hands-on experience in the subjects of biodiversity conservation, organic food growing, alternative energies and recycling, allowing them to be better equipped to make valuable contributions to their community both during and after their schooling years.

Investing in continuous environmental education programs for the general public are equally as important in order to redress the lack of information and interest on these subjects. This is felt as crucial as adequate education and information will both empower and build the necessary resilience toward effectively adapting to climate change and peak oil. The PED seminars held last year were valuable in that regard but were poorly attended by the general public and key stakeholders due to the lack of advertising for these events.

g. Dependency and lack resilience

That 44% of metro’s households depend on social grants[4] is of great concern, especially because this number is increasing every year with no set limit and date line. The vision must therefore include an ongoing commitment to reduce entitlement and dependency by genuine empowerment programs of the people by the people – facilitated, but not imposed by Government.

h. Coordination and policy alignment

Various departments and organizations are already doing work in these areas, but seem to do so in isolation. In order to resolve the challenges of our time at the necessary pace, these groups need to work together toward the same vision, with a full understanding of the cross-cutting nature of these issues. The same applies to various governmental policies and development strategies as all the issues pertaining to sustainability, environment, population and development are interconnected.

A new low carbon development paradigm will affect each and every sector and requires extensive coordination among them. It is therefore felt crucial to identify, at provincial as well as municipal level, a coordinating body (such as a planning commission) that could lead the way to coordinate and create necessary synergies between these different sectors. Energy, housing and transport for example will require continuous and extensive guidelines in order to define low-carbon strategies to supply energy, accommodation as well as transport to the people.

(There were very insightful 30 Year Foresight workshops led by COFISA[5] in which one of our members participated. The process followed in those workshops could be usefully applied to not only developing a truly inspiring vision for the Metro but also provide useful roadmaps for getting there.)

The strategy derived from this revised vision should not be dissociated from a rural development plan that will improve living conditions and increase employment opportunities in the rural areas of the province. The latter should prevent future unsustainable influx to the cities, improve food security and provide employment throughout the Eastern Cape.

i. Job Creation

A new and enhanced focus in these areas, while expressing our commitment to actively addressing peak oil, climate change, and building local resilience, could bring more long-term [decent] jobs to the region as well as considerably improving the quality of life for all people living in and around Nelson Mandela Bay. This issue is felt crucial for the metro as its unemployment rate is as high as 35%, and 39% of its formal households are classified as indigent[6]. As mentioned above, rectifying this would involve extensive reskilling programs that could allow for more local businesses and SMMEs to emerge that provide particularly to local markets.

Vision

Fully aware of the challenges of peak oil and climate change, we envision our metro as being free of its dependence on fossil fuels in order to power itself, provide for and empower its population in a truly sustainable manner.

Understanding the negative impacts of the present economic system, it is our considered opinion that the above vision will only be possible in a drastically new paradigm that prioritizes human development over capital development.

NelsonMandelaBayhas the potential to becomeSouth Africa’s first “TransitionCity” that could serve as a model for other cities around the country and the rest of the world, exploring alternative development policies which promote social and economic justice as well as sustainable local development.

We agree that all the strategic objectives stated in the present IDP[7] are valid and important. We believe that they would be more easily achieved in the framework of our suggested vision because the latter emphasizes human development over GDP and capital development. It is important to note that the state of our natural environment (including the finite resources contained therein) determines the socio-economic state of our communities, and either directly or indirectly affects all sectors within our municipality.

 Nelson Mandela Bay Transition Network

The Nelson Mandela Bay Transition Network is very keen to be further involved in such crucial articulation of a long term development plan and further relevant educational needs. This would squarely fit with its objectives which are:

  1. Awareness-raising about the need to implement low-carbon, resilient paradigms in order reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel dependence.
  2. The creation of a platform for networking and development of ideas, solutions and constructive responses.
  3. Lobbying government and various institutions to take a long term view that considers the well-being of future generations.
  4. Mobilizing community members towards change in light of the above vision by providing practical opportunities for community involvement.
  5. Forming a steering committee responsible for the networking of specialized groups and projects relevant to the different aspects of Transition including food, water, energy, housing, environment, social, industry, waste management, transport etc.

[1] Population, Environment and Development

[4] NMBM IDP

[5] The Cooperation Framework on Innovation Systems betweenFinland andSouth Africa

[6]NelsonMandelaBayMunicipality Integrated Development Plan

[7]NelsonMandelaBayMunicipality Integrated Development Plan

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One Response to Our vision for the metro…

  1. Pingback: End-Of-Year Newsletter Dec 2011 | Nelson Mandela Bay Transition Network

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