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Water will be SA growth restraint

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 28 November 2010

The dire water shortage in the Karoo provided a stark backdrop for international experts meeting in Stellenbosch on sustainable development and how to achieve economic growth on a planet whose natural resources are stretched to the limit.

98% of all SA water is allocated, and 35% of all arable soil is degraded.

“Three resources are at their limits and are already undermining growth in SA,” said Mark Swilling, academic director of the Sustainability Institute, a non-profit trust working in partnership with Stellenbosch University, listing them as water, coal and arable land.

Swilling is a member of the resource panel of scientists set up by the UN Environment Programme three years ago to find ways of “decoupling” economic growth from depletion of natural resources.

He told panel members who met in Stellenbosch this week that SA’s case was typical of problems African countries faced; “98% of all our water is allocated, and in the past economic growth rates have been tracked by water use rates. If we don’t decouple, our water resource becomes a restraint on growth.”

Swilling said SA’s coal reserves, once said to top 50billion tons, were now put by some researchers at closer to 10billion tons. “We may have already hit peak production so coal, which has been such a key resource, is a major constraint.

“Then soil – we have 14million hectares of arable soil, but 5million hectares are degraded. We’ve got to attend to the question of soil degradation.” Continue reading Water will be SA growth restraint