By Phumza Sithole – Rainbow News*
DURBAN, Dec 5 – (TerraViva) “Durban is green! I can see it!” exclaimed Nomasikizi Khonza, Mayor of Amathole Municipality in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.
Khonza led a delegation of eight from East London to attend the 17th Conference of Parties and the deliberations over a response to climate change.
The Eastern Cape is one of the provinces highly affected by climate change. In recent years there has been poor rainfall as well increasing numbers of extreme weather events such as tornadoes.
Farmers in a province already struggling with poverty must now cope with damage to their homes, reduced harvests and loss of livestock.
In June 2009, Khonza’s Amathole Municipality hosted a provincial conference on climate change, attended by representatives of provincial departments as well as academics, teachers and schoolchildren.
That meeting was a response to the drastic changes in weather patterns in the district. Local authorities in Amathole commissioned a study on vulnerability to climate change, and this year adopted a plan to address these weaknesses – the first municipality in the Eastern Cape to do so.
The plan focuses on sanitation, air pollution, disaster management and infrastructure development to contain the damaging impacts of climate change.
Khanyiso Wonci, who is the municipality’s biodiversity environmental officer, said, “Amathole is participating in COP 17 by exhibiting about both funded and unfunded environmental projects, which contribute (to the response to) climate change.”
The climate conference has also given the municipality a chance network and interact with potential funders, while also getting new ideas from other stakeholders who may face similar challenges.
* Community media coverage of COP 17 is being supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency of South Africa, which is promoting the participation of local journalists through a programme of training and reporting on climate change.