State of the environment in South-Africa - North West - Current State
  State of the environment in South Africa
  North West
Current State
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State is the condition of the environment over time or at a specific point in time resulting from various pressures. It refers to the atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. At the provincial scale, these "spheres" are represented by:

Air quality


Although there is little information available on the state of air quality, atmospheric air quality is not considered to be a major problem in most areas in the Province. However, air quality in some urban and industrialised areas such as Rustenburg, Brits and Potchestroom shows deterioration due to industrial and vehicle emissions. Air quality in settlements using coal and wood as a source of fuel for heating and cooking is also a cause of concern.  Potential sources of air pollution includes industries, mining activities, agriculture, transport, regional air movements between provinces.For more..


Land and soil quality


In general, theNorth West is showing signs of increased land and soil degradation (see Map 9). All magisterial district show signs of degradation and desertification. The most severely affected are those that are communally managed. The Province, with a degradation index of 270, is ranked as the fourth worst affected province in South Africa. This has numerous negative consequences for agriculture in the Province such as decreased productivity of the cropland.

Soil degradation through water and wind erosion is considered to be a major problem in the North West Province. The Province has a soil degradation index of 149 making it the fourth most degraded province in the country (see Map10).


The Province is the third highest province in South Africa in terms of severity of veld degradation. The bush encroachment remains a serious problem in the Province (see Map11). The most important bush encroachment and alien invader species are Acacia, Mesquite , Syringa and Eucalyptus species. Deforestation, however, seems to be less of a problem in the Province than elsewhere in South Africa, mainly because there is currently an annual surplus of fuel wood of approximately 500 000 tons.For more..


Water quantity and quality


The surface waters in the Province are in the form of rivers, dams, pans, wetlands and dolomitic eyes fed by aquifers. Perennial surface water resources are generally scarce, particularly in the semi-arid western portion of the Province. Runoff as a percentage of the precipitation ranges from less than 1% in the western to approximately 7% in the eastern region, with the average runoff (6%)being below the national average of 9%. The main rivers are the Crocodile, Groot Marico, Hex, Elands, Vaal, Mooi, Harts and Molopo rivers (see Map13). The Province has over 40 wetlands and one Ramsar, site, Barberspan, which is recognize as a wetland of international importance.


The Province has a large reservoir of subterranean water in the form of fractured aquifers and dolomitic compartments. However, recharge to this precious resources is considered to be one of the lowest in South Africa with an average of less than 10 mm per year in the western region of the province (see Map14 ). The province relies heavily on groundwater resources to meet its needs. Main groundwater quality issues in the Province include dissolved minerals (see Map15) , nitrates (see Map16) and fluoride concentration(see Map17).  Sources of pollution of groundwater resources include mining and industrial activities, agriculture and domestic use.Water is considered to be the key limiting factor for development in the Province.For more..


Biological diversity


The Province has wide array of species, ecosystem and habitats (such as plants, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals). This is largely due to the diverse nature of the Province's landscapes and variation in climate. The Province has several endemic species (such as the Aloe peglerae in the Magaliesberg), as well as rare and threatened species (e.g. wild dog). The indigenous fauna and flora inhabiting the numerous dolomitic eyes (particularly the aquatic invertebrates and fish) are also considered to be unique. The numerous non-perennial pans occurring in the Province provide important breeding and feeding habitat for waterfowl, amphibians and invertebrates which are adapted to the seasonal nature of these waterbodies.


The total size of formally protected areas is 283 308 ha which amounts to approximately 2,4% of the Province. This includes national parks, provincial nature reserves, private nature reserves and protected natural environments (e.g. Magaliesberg). This falls below the 10% of each vegetation type suggested by the 1992 UNCED Convention.

There are 10 registered conservancies and several game farms or ranches in the Province. Of the total area of about 160 000ha of land committed to game farming, about 6% can be classified as true game farms. The remainder comprises game camps (fenced off portions of farms) that vary in size. The species being conserved on these farms are predominantly antelope such as kudu, duiker and steenbok. Other animals such as sable, Cape buffalo, gemsbok, eland, red hartebeest, blue wildebeest and even black rhinoceros also occur in the Province


Fishing and fishery resources in the North West Province largely occur in the Province's impoundments. Fishing in these dams is mostly by recreational and sport fishermen. The main species being targeted for recreational angling are barbel, bass, carp, kurper, mudfish and yellowfish. For many rural communities in the Province, where food security is a major problem, fishing provides a source of protein. The development of community-based small-scale commercial fisheries on several dams in the Province is currently underway.


The Province has a total of 14 national parks and provincial reserves within its borders. The most well known are the Pilanesburg and Madikwe National Parks, which are administered by the North West Parks and Tourism Board. The province also share the Magaliesburg Protected Natural Environment with Gauteng (see Map 19 ). For more..


Human health and well-being


Human health and well-being depend largely on the availability of employment, land, adequate housing, basic services, water supply and sanitation and an environment which is not harmful. The state of human health and well-being in the Province can be summarised as follows:

  • There is a housing backlog (146 000 units in 2000). Approximately 30% of people in the North West Province are living in substandard dwellings. Because many of these settlements are unplanned, they are often situated on marginal land and impact negatively on the environment.
  • In the rural areas, one in three children displays marginal vitamin A status, 20% are anaemic and 10% are iron-deficient.
  • Almost all White households (more than 99%) have access to tap water in their dwellings as opposed to 27% of Black households.
  • The cost of supplying services to rural areas is very high, with insufficient government budget currently available.
  • Only 26% of the population has access to private phones, 35% have communal access and 39% have no access at all to telephones.
  • In rural areas only 21% of the people have access to electricity for lighting.
  • There is a high illiteracy rate (30%) making environmental awareness very difficult to address.
  • Twenty-three percent of antenatal females registered as HIV positive in 2000. AIDS and its debilitating health and economic impacts is therefore a highly significant factor in the Province.
  • Based on the UN Human Development Index, the Province is the 3rd lowest of South Africa's provinces in terms of quality of life. For more..

Toxicity in the Environment


There is a paucity of information on the extent and concentration of toxic substances (e.g. Persistent Organic Pollutants POPs) in the environment of the North West Province , and their impact on human health and well-being. However, radiation and radioactivity are recognised as threats to human well-being in the North West Province . The main sources of radioactivity in the environment are gold and uranium mining. Uranium deposits, associated with gold-bearing reefs, are found in the south-east of the Province in the Orkney, Potchefstroom, Stilfontein and Klerksdorp areas. The most important radioactive compounds in the Province are Uranium-238, Thorium-230, Radium-226 and Radon-222.


Potential causes of toxicity in the Province are:

      Incineration of medical waste from hospitals (tissue, blood, swabs, needles);

      Application of herbicides and pesticides in the communal and commercial crop farms;

      Different forms of pollution from mines and other  industries;

      Emergence and growing number of informal settlements;

      Disposal of household waste classified as hazardous;

      Burning of plastics, and o Poor sanitary conditions and facilities.For more..


Natural and cultural heritage


There are many important cultural heritage sites within the Province. Stone Age and Iron Age sites are well represented, including Kruger Cave; the Bosworth Rock Engraving site; Thaba Sione near Mafikeng and the stone-walled settlement of Kaditshwene in the Madikwe area. South Africa's past is also represented in the Province, including battlefields from the South African War such as the Battle of Silikaatsnek (1900). Numerous forts, graves and blockhouses from this period, are also abundant. The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and its associated tourism development is also partly located in the North West Province. The condition of the known cultural heritage resources found within North West Province is still relatively good.

Several natural heritage sites and landscapes are situated within the national parks and nature reserves (see Map 19). Due to management initiatives and conservation by the North West Parks and Tourism Board these areas are well protected and development of these heritage sites is to some extent underway in the existing fourteen parks and reserves in the Province . For more..

Last updated 18.05.2005  |  Responsible editor: Anna Mampye  |  Powered by Publikit®