The recently launched third State of Environment Report (SOER 2020) through its theme calls for “Restoring the Environment for a Climate Resilient Economy”. This is an urgent call for the implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable natural resource management for a sustainable future.
Based on research that focuses on five thematic areas – atmosphere, land management, biodiversity, water management and human development – SOER shows a severe depletion of these natural resources caused by mainly human activities.
According to Dr. Robert Mnisi, the consultant who coordinated activities of producing the SOER, the main drivers that deplete natural resources include the increase in human population, poverty, urbanisation, economic activities, natural disasters, and reliance on fuel wood for domestic heating energy requirements.
“It appears that government’s environmental programmes do not cascade to chiefdom level because you find that homesteads are established on risky areas which put the lives of people in danger,” said Mnisi.
Mnisi also said, although there is some improvement in conforming with requirements of the Environment Management Act (EMA), 2002, there is still a long way to go. The EMA also compels the country to produce a SOER every two years.
Benchmarking progress against the last SOER, which was done in 2014 due to absence of funds, towards meeting the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the SOER notes that there is a need to close the gaps by improving on legislation, data collection, and the management of natural resources. However, the report notes that the country is making good progress towards meeting its targets on human development although the COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat.
UNDP supported the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs through Eswatini Environment Authority (EEA) to produce the 3rd SOER. Speaking at the launch of the report at Sibebe Resort, Mbabane, UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Rose Ssebatindira, said SOER emphasises that, while the country rebuilds the economy, no liSwati should be left behind.
“We need to find ways to live on this beautiful planet without depleting resources and to find ways to develop and reduce poverty while preserving environmental health,” she said.
Ms. Ssebatndira said the report provides a wealth of information to guide policy and programmes, shows progress the country has made towards protecting the environment and gaps to address and it contributes towards implementing the climate action plan.
“Preparing the report is a key milestone in government’s efforts to tackle the environment and development nexus challenges but it is also very important to take action on the recommendations,” she said.
The UNDP Resident Representative was represented by Team Leader: Environment, Climate and Disaster Resilience, Mr. Onesimus Muhwezi at the event.
Speaking at the same event, the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Moses Vilakati, said the report highlights the environmental challenges that the country faces. Hon Vilakati also said he hoped that this report will broaden people’s understanding of the complexity of all environmental and development issues, and further assist to facilitate the implementation of appropriate interventions.
“We anticipate that this report will also reach the general public, academia, key stakeholders, policymakers, legislators and facilitate mainstreaming of environmental issues in climate policies,” he said.
He further appreciated the partnership that the Ministry enjoys with UNDP.