At an event held at iSimangaliso, the minister of Water and Envirnmental Affairs Ms Edna Molewa launched the initiative, saying
…iSimangaliso Wetland Park is more fitting to celebrate International Day for Biodiversity …..iSimangaliso was inscribed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in 1999 because of its exceptional biodiversity.
iSimangaliso is also home to five major ecosystems that provides habitat for a significant diversity of African species, including those that are rare, threatened and/or endemic. In addition, iSimangaliso also has four RAMSAR sites, which are wetlands of international importance, comprising of different types of wetlands than any other place in the world.
Biodiversity includes all plants and animals, and their various interactions with each other, including humans. We rely on this biodiversity to provide us with essential means of survival, including food, materials for shelter, air, water and medicines in the more rural areas.
If we fail to make a serious effort to protect our biodiversity, taking more out than what can be regenerated, we will eventually run out of a basic means of sustaining life as we know it.
The International Day for Biodiversity aims to highlight this issue annually, to highlight areas of success and pinpoint areas that need our attention and involvement as a community.
According to Ms Molewa,
The benefits of biodiversity or ecosystem services, or the natural capital as it is known, are estimated at R73 billion contributing to 7% of South Africa’s GDP per annum. This is our competitive edge in growing our economy and addressing climate change adaptation.
These ecosystem services, like municipal services, play an essential role in supporting social development and economic prosperity.
At iSimangaliso a new model has been created with a biodiversity conservation-led initiative recognising the importance of conservation while at the same time creating growth and jobs.
Since its establishment in 2000, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority has made significant progress in conserving iSimangaliso’s World Heritage values, contributing to economic empowerment and growing regional tourism.
Read the full presentation on the International Day for Biodiversity