State of the Environment Overview
1 Foreword 1
2 Introduction 2
3 Physical environment 4
4 Biological environment 6
5 Social and cultural environment 10
6 Built environment 12
7 Economic environment 14
8 Governance 18
9 Fact file 20
Limpopo is emerging as the country’s gateway to the rest of Africa. With the fastest growing economy in the country, abundance in natural splendour, and a wealth of natural resources, the province is a shining jewel in the South African crown.
Our challenge is to unlock its vast potential in such a way that we are able to meet the needs and realise the potential of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. Poverty remains the single biggest threat to our society and our environment. A better life for all can be achieved through sustainable development, which insures greater balance between social, economic and environmental needs. Economic growth and jobs are outcomes of sustainable development
Through its State of the Environment Reporting process Limpopo aims to provide accurate, accessible and current information to ensure that the environment is properly managed and that challenges are properly met.
This report provides a high-level overview of the State of the Environment in Limpopo and will be followed by the first State of the Environment Report for Limpopo due to be published later in 2003. In sharing this information with all stakeholders, the government of Limpopo hopes to ensure that everyone can contribute to ensuring the sustainable conservation and utilisation of the environment on which we depend.
T. A. Mafumadi
MEC: Finance and Economic Development
The most serious problem our society faces is the ongoing conflict between economic activity and the biological environment on which all human activity ultimately depends. Our environment and heritage are national assets that represent the capital with which we must build a life for ourselves as well as a sustainable future for our children.
State of the Environment Reporting is an instrument to identify and monitor changes to the environment that result from human activities. It provides the basis for sustainable development decision-making.
This report provides an overview of the current state of the environment in Limpopo as a first step to the establishment of a State of the Environmental Reporting System for the province. Its purpose is to provide concise but adequate information to enable people in Limpopo to participate in the process. The First Year State of the Environment Report (SoER) is due to be completed later this year.
State of the Environment Reporting is a process that has to be developed and refined over time and is used to:
? identify and monitor change that occurs in the environment
? determine why change occurs
? determine what should be done
? communicate the results to decision-makers and the general public.
The development of a State of the Environment Reporting System is a process that has to be developed and refined over time. It is also important that it is done in close synergy with capacity and structure building within the department.
The Limpopo First Year SoER will be a status quo report that will provide the foundation on which a multi-tier reporting structure can be constructed over time.
This first overview report is released during the first Environment Fair in our province. It forms the pillar of our future environmental management planning process All future economic, social and political initiatives will be guided by the status of our environment for responsible developments.
The theme of the fair is "Your environment, our future". We chose this theme because of its relevance to the status of environment in South Africa in general, and Limpopo in particular. The current status of our environment calls for a "sense of urgency" by all of us, if we are to be responsible custodians of the environment for future generations.
This report calls for the participation of all stakeholders on issues highlighted in this report. It is no secret that some areas in our province are slowly turning into deserts due to deforestation. It is also true that the rain pattern in these areas have changed dramatically. The reality is that unless we intervene the situation is certainly going to worsen.
It is these kinds of challenges, which should form part of the broader transformation agenda with specific reference to environmental issues.
My greatest fear was highlighted by someone who once said, "Only when the last tree has died, the last river poisoned, the last fish caught, will we realise that we cannot eat money." I hope this never happens now, or in the future.
We are fortunate that we still have a chance to do something. Let's act now!
Charles M Maluleke
Senior General Manager : Environment and Tourism
Components of State of the Environment Reporting Systems ? Determine the current state of the environment ? Determine key issues that affect the environment ? Determine the desired state of the environment ? Define a methodology for measuring change ? Recommend policy' interventions
Overview and current state
Limpopo covers an area of 123910 km2, which is 10,2% of the surface area of South Africa. It has a
diverse topography, with many interesting and valuable environmental features. The broad terrain
patterns of the province are characterised by the Limpopo Plain forming the northern half of the
province and the Bushveld basin surrounded by the Central Highland, which is bordered to the east by
the Great Escarpment and the Eastern Plateau slope.
Looking at the landscape in more detail, specific features stand out as significant scenic areas. These
include the tablelands and escarpments of the Waterberg complex, the low mountains of the
Soutpansberg range and the Blouberg with the extensive plains towards the Limpopo River in the north.
To the east are the very scenic high mountains of the Drakensberg range.
The mountainous areas of the province are of high scenic value and together with the Lowveld and
northern plain areas have great eco-tourism potential for initiatives such as The African Ivory Route.
Limpopo falls in the summer rainfall region with the western part semi-arid, and the eastern part largely
sub-tropical. The western and far northern parts experience frequent droughts. Winter throughout
Limpopo is mild and mostly frost-free.
The province has limited surface and ground water resources. Most of the water management areas
are severely stressed and many people still do not have access to the accepted minimum supply of
water. Most of the province relies on ground water as a source of supply.
Water requirements for development (especially agriculture, mining and rural areas) are placing severe
stress on the available water supply in the province.
The surface water resource in Limpopo
River Catchment (km
2) MAP (mm)
Mokolo 14 409 533
Lephalala 6725 469
Mogalakwena 19 314 481
Sand, Nzelele 19 972 453
Luvuvhu 5941 627
Letaba 18 979 584
Olifants 54 563 631
The pressures on the physical and scenic resources include:
? indiscriminate development in scenic and sensitive landscapes that could have a significant
impact on tourism
? inappropriate development that could undermine the eco-tourism potential
? land degradation that is increased by the pressure of human activities, which reduces the natural
production capacity of the province with severe long-term consequences.
The key issues affecting water management in the province include:
? the imbalance between the supply and demand for water inappropriate land uses in the river
? the impact of fertilisers and pesticides
? inadequate monitoring
? high concentrations of pit latrines in certain areas
? flood events and droughts.
The key issues negatively affecting the scenic quality of the province include: ? development pressures on scenically valuable areas.
The key issues affecting land degradation include:
? deforestation especially in Sekhukhune and Vhembe districts ? unsustainable agricultural practices
? growth of the commercial forestry industry in sensitive landscapes ? mining activities
? land use development.
Limpopo falls within the greater savanna biome, commonly referred to as bushveld, with a small
representation of grassland and forest biomes.
The rich biodiversity of Limpopo can be attributed to its biogeographical location and diverse
Three regions unique to the province (centres of endemism) occur in Limpopo. They are the
Drakensberg Escarpment (including Wolkberg), Sekhukhuneland and Soutpansberg.
According to Veld Types of South Africa, J.H.P. Acocks (1974), there are 15 different veld types in the
Biomes and Vegetation Types in the Limpopo Province
Biome Acocks Vegetation Type
Bushveld - Mopani veld
- Arid Sweet Bushveld
- Lowveld Sour Bushveld
- Sour Bushveld
- Arid Lowveld
- Sour Mixed Bushveld
- Springbok Flats Turf Thornveld
- Mixed Bushveld
- Kalahari Thornveld and Shrub Bushveld
- Sourish Mixed Bushveld
- Other Turf Thornveld
Grassland - North-eastern mountain Sourveld
- Pietersburg Plateau Grassveld
- North Eastern Sandy Highveld
Forest - Afromontane Forest
The natural forests occurring in Limpopo include about 19 000 ha of northern mist belt forest and a few
small pockets of Afromontane forest. Turf thornveld and Pietersburg false grassveld are also important
and threatened vegetation types that occur in Limpopo. There are about 170 identified rare and
threatened plants in the province, many of which are used as medicinal plants.
There are currently 52 provincially protected areas in Limpopo Province totalling 335 601 ha, which,
excluding the South African National Parks areas of the Kruger National Park, Vembe-Dongola and
Marakele National Parks accounts for 5,06 % of the total area of the province.
There are two established biosphere reserves in the province: the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere
Reserve and the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. Significant private conservation initiatives such as
Western Soutpansberg Conservancy, Limpopo Valley Conservancy, and Makapans Valley
Conservancy are also under way.
In addition there are 28 registered natural heritage sites in Limpopo as well as numerous private
conservation areas, which contribute significantly to environmental management in the province.
Most of the larger mammal species are well represented in Limpopo. Some habitat-specific mammal
species are more vulnerable and are restricted to small distribution ranges, such as Gunning's Golden
Mole, Amblysomus gunningi, which is endemic to Limpopo.
There are several important bird areas in Limpopo, including the renowned Nylsvley floodplain.
The total number of amphibians found in Limpopo is 46 species. The Transvaal forest rain frog,
Breviceps sylvestris is endemic to the Province.
Limpopo supports 148 species of reptiles, which is indicative of high diversity. Ten endemic reptile
species occur in Limpopo, some of which are range restricted to the centres of endemism. The only
know extinct South African reptile, Eastwood's Longtailed seps, Tetradactylus eastwoodi, occurred here.
The province hosts a rich invertebrate diversity in all habitat niches. Many relict species that are very
specific range restricted are associated with the centres of endemism in the province. Invertebrates are
currently a core focus of the Provincial River Health Programme initiative.
The biodiversity of Limpopo is a strategic resource. It provides the livelihood for many rural households,
which include material for shelter, fire wood, medicinal plants, and food. The growing ecotourism
industry also relies on the biodiversity of Limpopo. The potential for sustainable utilisation of biodiversity
is still largely untapped. With appropriate policies and management the untapped wealth of the province
can be converted into sustainable income through activities that capture the value of resource utilisation.
Such activities may include; bio-prospecting for medicinal products, the sustainable trade in faunal
species, game farming and trophy hunting.
The Significance of the Nylsvley Floodplain Ecosystem
The Nylsvley Floodplain ecosystem has been designated as a bird breeding site of international
importance. Water resources in Limpopo are stressed and provision to local towns are critical.
Options for the alleviation of supply demands included the damming of the Nyl River upstream
from the Nylsvley Floodplain System.
Should this scheme have gone ahead it would have had disastrous consequences for the system.
Creative alternatives for water provision were explored which brought about the only interbasin
water transfer scheme in the Province, Magalies Water board Scheme, transferring water from
Roodeplaat Dam to Modimolle.
The following pressures threaten biodiversity:
? the impact of irresponsible human activities on natural habitats
? the conflict between conservation and development needs
? unsustainable use of biodiversity
? inadequate collective strategic thinking and planning
? ignorance regarding the importance of biodiversity.
Key issues include:
? uncoordinated aforestation activities
? uncoordinated mining activities
? conservation of remaining Montane grassland, especially the North eastern mountain grassland
in the Wolkberg, of which less than 1 % is currently conserved
? conservation of a representative sample of habitats and vegetation types
? raising of environmental awareness
? management of protected areas
? bush encroachment
? planning and management of land use practices
? law enforcement
? trade in, and movement of, wild fauna specimens
? reintroduction of species into the wild
? overgrazing and overstocking.
State of the Rivers Reports
The Province has compiled two State of the rivers reports. The first for the Letaba and Luvuvhu Rivers,
and secondly for the Crocodile. Sabie-Sand and Olifants Rivers. A state of the rivers report is currently
being compiled for the Mogol River.
Conservation Status of Veld Types (Acocks) in the Province
Size of veld % of veld % total % type % Veld Type Size ha type conserved conserved in Limpopo modified in Limpopo (Nationally in Limpopo ha
North-Eastern Mountain 952 840 752474 78.97 45 18.39 6.89 Sourveld
Lowveld Sour Bushveld 1 194180 790 337 66.18 76 8.45 0.59 Lowveld 2 379 110 178 369 7.49 23 20.26 0.28 Arid Lowveld 1 900 450 1 147 683 60.39 22 31.73 1.75 Arid Sweet Bushveld 1 822 050 1 720 890 94.44 23 0.59 0.59 Mopanie Veld 2 086 800 2 027 848 97.17 7 43.54 2.67
13 008 Kalahari Thornveld 19 078 0.14 2 0.38 0.0046 190
Mixed Bushveld 3 986 720 2 895 218 72.62 36 3.88 2.00 Sourish Mixed Bushveld 3448 180 995 065 28.85 27 1.35 0.52 Sourish Bushveld 1 301 870 1 117523 85.83 28 5.1 3.56 Turf Thornveld 587 900 494 137 84.05 94 0,27 0.27 Pietersburg False 248900 248 900 100 88 0.62 0.62 Grassveld
North-Eastern Sand 1 475 200 92 934 6.29 52 0.05 0.04 Highveld