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Biodiversity & ecosystems

National initiatives

South Africa’s progressive constitutional framework has enabled the development of innovative national environmental legislation (See the Governance section).
The Biodiversity White Paper of 1997 sets out a number of goals, strategies, and priorities for conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefit-sharing. It also sets out the legal framework provided by the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998) (NEMA) introduced a new era of management of the environment, culminating in the recent promulgation of national legislation on biodiversity use and conservation (NEM:Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) and NEM:Protected Areas Act (NEMPA)).

South African National Biodiversity Institute
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) replaced the previous National Botanical Institute in 2004 through the enactment of NEMBA. It can be considered as one of the most important developments with regards to the institutional structure for biodiversity management as it is the first time that a technical body for centralized monitoring and reporting on the status of the country’s biodiversity has been formally established at a national level.
SANBI’s responsibilities now relate to the full diversity of South Africa's fauna and flora and builds on international best practice and research with special emphasis on outreach programmes. SANBI will act as a comprehensive national consultative and advisory body on the full spectrum of biodiversity issues and the communication thereof.

South African National Parks
The South African National Parks organization (SANParks), established in terms of the National Parks Act in 1926 (Act No. 56 of 1926), is today the leading statutory conservation authority, responsible for over 3 750 000 hectares of protected land in 20 National Parks.
Since 1994, the then National Parks Board, supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, has worked to make national parks more accessible to the public and tourists,  in order to ensure conservation contributes to overall social and economic development, whilst maintaining high standards of research and management and expanding the land under its protection.
SANParks has also begun to generate 75% of its operating revenue.
The River Health Programme
The River Health Programme (RHP) was initiated in 1994 by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The programme was developed with the overall goal of expanding the ecological basis of information on aquatic resources, in order to support the rational management of these systems in South Africa.
In the RHP, a multitude of factors (indices) are used to determine the health of a river ecosystem. The River Health Programme outputs are in the form of simplified posters and State-of-Rivers Reports. Presently eight State-of-Rivers Reports have been published in the country, with more planned. These data provide a detailed analysis of the state of the rivers, however only a few rivers have been assessed to-date, thus the reports are not suitable for use as a national indicator.
The Natural Heritage Programme
The South African Natural Heritage Programme (NHP), established in 1985, that had become non-operational in recent years, is currently being revitalized. The NHP focuses on the participation of civil society and in particular on private landowners. It is focussed on the conservation of important natural bioticly diverse areas or exceptional natural features that are both privately- and publicly-owned. The revived NHP will seek to provide landowners with tax benefits, potential funding, recognition, and other incentives. The NEMBA and NEMPA Act provide the enabling structures to support the NHP.
Laws and agreements
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This page was last updated 14/11/2007