Hon Chairperson, hon Deputy President, hon Minister and Deputy Minister, hon members, ladies and gentlemen, firstly, before I begin to engage you on the South African Weather Service Amendment Bill of 2013, I would like to thank our esteemed and knowledgeable chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs, hon Johnny de Lange.
Initially, when between six to seven pieces of legislation came before the portfolio committee, there were some concerns as to the feasibility of processing all this legislation within limited timeframes. With the sustained effort of the chairperson, together with the departmental officials, four of the Bills and two conventions were adopted by the committee on 29 October 2013 and three of the Bills were passed last week on 5 November 2013 by Parliament. I commend the work of all concerned.
Weather forecasts and warnings provided by the meteorological profession are a most important service. Forecasts are used by government and industry to protect life and property and to improve the efficiency of operations and by individuals to plan a wide range of daily activities. This summary of present-day weather forecasting capabilities is intended to provide general guidance to a broad constituency of users.
Over the past 150 years, the SA Weather Service, Saws, has built up a reputation as a trusted provider of weather and climate information. The Saws has played an integral role in assisting government to minimise the impact of weather-related natural disasters.
The primary goal of the Saws is to ensure the continued relevance of meteorological products and services in compliance with the applicable regulatory frameworks.
The purpose of the South African Weather Service Amendment Bill is to amend the South African Weather Services Act, Act 8 of 2001, so as to substitute and insert certain definitions; to extend the objectives and functions of the SA Weather Service to deal with ambient air quality information services; to provide for the Minister to amend the Schedules to the Act by notice in the Gazette; and to provide for offences and penalties.
One of the key aspects that I would like to focus on is the provision of a legal mandate to the Weather Service to provide ambient air quality services and to act as the custodian of the South African Air Quality Information System.
By 2010, the importance of working towards measurable improvements in the South African ambient air quality resulted in air quality management interventions that are fully informed by accurate, relevant, complete and accessible information. A national air quality information system, in the form of the SA Air Quality Information System, is in place.
Currently there are 102 government-owned monitoring stations, 84 of which are already reporting to the SA Air Quality Information System, Saaqis.
An hon member from the ACDP had a question about this. This means that we have 82% of government-owned monitoring stations reporting to Saaqis, which is very impressive, as we have already met the President's Outcome 10 delivery target of 80% reporting to Saaqis.
One of the challenges is the number of government air quality monitoring stations which are vandalised in municipalities. This is a concern for the national department as well as for local government. There is a need for greater uniformity between the three spheres of government to ensure air quality monitoring of the highest standard.
Another current and critical concern of the global world in this century is climate change. The SA Weather Service, with the SA Air Quality Information System, working closely with the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs is focusing on adaptation as key to coping with the impact of climate change.
Adaptation is key to coping with the unavoidable impact of climate change as such changes could exacerbate the existing variability in the weather and climate of the region.
To contribute to adaptation efforts, the SA Weather Service is improving on its drought monitoring capacity, particularly through the integration of various data sources and maintenance of a quality distribution network for rainfall and other key climate observations.
The institution also reinforces its climate information system by integrating climate change projection information with historical databases for the benefit of various end-users in water resources, agriculture, health infrastructure, biodiversity and ecosystems, forests, urban management, tourism, food, land, environment, energy security and management of coastal and marine resource sectors.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend my colleagues from the DA, hon Rodgers, from Cope, hon Ferguson, and from the IFP, hon Mama Zikalala, for their effort and support for this Bill. I especially commend the hon Rodgers. He is a miniature of the former member of the committee, hon Morgan. He is a shadow model, but does not just oppose or object for the sake of doing so.
It is said that a weather service is linked to the landing of aircraft. I know that having a good weather service is about having good information so that the aircraft can land anywhere. It doesn't matter if it lands at an air force base.
I know that all committee members fully support the chairperson of the committee. I also think hon Johnny de Lange will absolutely agree with me when I say that we appreciate all committee members' co-operation and the professionalism they contribute to the job.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that good air quality is a prerequisite for health and environmental wellbeing, which are the cornerstones of sustainable development. The need to achieve economic growth should be balanced with improvements in health and environmental wellbeing. The ANC supports this amending Bill. I thank you. [Applause.]