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The National Assembly has passed the Marine Spatial Planning Bill, a piece of legislation which seeks to ensure proper coordination and efficient use of ocean resources for economic development, as well as to protect marine environment. The Bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence before it goes to the President to be signed into law.

During a debate on the Bill in the National Assembly, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, Mr Philemon Mapulane, said the Marine Spatial Planning Bill is another frontier through which to carry forward the ideal encapsulated in Operation Phakisa.

Operation Phakisa is a government initiative which was launched in 2014 to fast-track the implementation of the National Development Plan, through a result-driven approach involving clear plans and targets.

Among its objectives, the Marine Spatial Planning Bill seeks to promote sustainable economic opportunities which contribute to the development of the South African ocean economy though coordinated and integrated planning, as well as to develop and implement a shared marine spatial planning system to manage a changing environment that can be accessed by all sectors and users of the ocean.

Mr Mapulane said ocean economy is essential for the future welfare and prosperity of humankind generally and for specifically as South Africans, being surrounded by the two massive oceans, the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

“The ocean has become an attractive economic expansion opportunity as land resources are under increased pressure from a variety of activities taking place in the land space.

“The ocean has become the new economic frontier, holding the promise of immense resource wealth and great potential for boosting economic growth, employment and innovation. The ocean is increasingly recognised as indispensable for addressing many of the global challenges facing the planet in the decades to come, from food security and climate change to the provision of energy, natural resources and improved medical care,” the committee Chairperson said.

He said the growing focus on the ocean is driven by a combination of population growth, dwindling natural resources, sluggish economic growth in many traditional sectors, responses to climate change and pioneering technologies.

Mr Mapulane told the National Assembly that the long-term potential for innovation, employment-creation and economic growth offered by maritime industries was impressive. However, he added, the potential of the ocean to harness these opportunities is dependent on how we deal with its current challenges of over-exploitation of the marine resources, pollution, declining biodiversity and climate change.

“Realising the full potential of the ocean economy will demand responsible, sustainable approaches to its economic development.

“The importance of oceans has been recognised from the beginning of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

“However, this potential can only be realised if the ecological health of the oceans is maintained and restored, considering that ongoing trends of exploitation and degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems show that endeavours to date have been insufficient and that more needs to be done –and must be done,” he said.

Debating in support of the Bill, National Assembly Member Mr Thomas Hadebe said marine spatial planning is necessary to ensure that sustainable economic growth is achieved while the marine environment is protected.

“Currently there are numerous uncoordinated, overlapping activities and an increased use of ocean resources, which negatively impact on the sustainability and benefits of ocean goods and services to the South African economy.

“Through Operation Phakisa, the focus is on unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans, which could contribute up to R177 billion to the GDP (gross domestic product) by 2033, and create between 800 000 and a million direct jobs,” said Mr Hadebe.

By Sakhile Mokoena
25 April 2018