State of the environment in South-Africa - North West - Human Settlement
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Human Settlement

Pressures are those direct or indirect stresses that affect the functioning and quality of the environment. The main pressures on the environment of the North West Province are from land-uses such as settlements, agriculture, mining, industry and other economic activities (see
Map 4).

Human settlement


Most of the human settlements in the North West Province have been developed due to specific economic activities (e.g. mining, tourism, agriculture) and the availability of natural resources (such as water) to support them. The larger the settlement, the greater the variety of pressures that are associated with it. All human settlements having impacts far beyond their boundaries because of the need to import resources and to dispose of wastes. The settlement patterns in the North West Province may be characterised as follows:

  • There are no large cities (> 1 million people) within the Province.
  • Distribution of settlements, particularly the smaller ones, has been highly influenced by policies of colonialism and apartheid. Very few are self-sustaining and therefore rely on external resources for their existence.
  • Generally the rural settlements, informal settlements and traditional villages are on state or tribal land have poorly developed or few basic services. Most of the land in the Province is privately owned (see Map 5).
  • There are numerous industrialised towns found in the eastern part where platinum and gold mining have stimulated development.
  • The central part of the Province has many small towns that have developed to cater for agricultural activity in surrounding areas. The western part of the Province has fewer towns because of the arid climate and lack of water.
  • Almost 23% of the population live in formal urban areas.
  • There is currently a high migration rate of rural males to the urban areas.
  • Commercial, industrial, and residential land uses, and the development of infrastructure are estimated to contribute about 15% to total land use.

Infrastructure development


The North West Province has relatively good general infrastructure, including a road and rail network, air transport, post and telecommunication, electricity and bulk water supply. This is a historical status and the major issue of concern in the Province is the development and delivery of infrastructure services to areas that did not receive such infrastructure in the past. In virtually every sector the North West Province has inherited considerable backlogs in meeting basic infrastructure delivery standards.

Infrastructure development has exerted pressure on the environment through its association with the main towns of the Province and the transport/communication routes between them. This applies particularly to the southern and eastern parts of the Province (see
Map 7). The current development of the Platinum Spatial Development Initiative (SDI) from Pretoria in the east to Lobatse in the north is another example.

Infrastructure also has a positive effect through the establishment of numerous services that increase the quality of life throughout the Province. This includes:

  • The establishment and operation of water service providers (e.g. Goldfields Water Board, Magalies Water Board, North West Supply Authority, Rand Water Board and the Western Transvaal Water Supply Company).
  • The establishment of medical facilities, such as hospitals and clinics, health centres, mobile clinics and mobile vans, all of which serve rural and urban areas. For more..



The consumption of energy provides a useful measure of the economic and social status in an area. Although the Province does not generate any electricity, it is rated as the third largest Province in terms of electricity consumption (15%) in South Africa. The total electricity consumption has steadily increasing between 1994 and 1998 to a total of 27 920 Gwh (GigaWatt hours). This is mainly a reflection of increased energy-intensive industrial activities such as mining. Urban areas rely on predominantly on electricity to meet most of their energy needs.

The majority of households in non-urban areas use wood and paraffin, as an alternative to electricity, for cooking purposes, and candles for lighting. However, the reliance of rural communities on fuel-wood exerts pressure on the environment to meet demand. This is particularly evident in the immediate vicinity of settlements, where deforestation can occur. For more..


Waste and pollution


One of the major pressures in modern society is the generation of wastes (both solid and liquid) and their disposal. Waste generators in the Province consist of municipalities, informal settlements, industries, hospitals, agriculture and mines (see Map 8). Some of the main waste management features in the Province are:

  • There are 63 landfill sites in the Province, all of which accept general waste. Almost 355 000 tons of general waste is processed each year by municipalities.
  • The total remaining airspace in landfill sites is approximately 5 million m3, of which only 17% meets minimum requirements. None of the regions, therefore, have more than 3,5 years of acceptable landfill sites.
  • There is no hazardous waste site in the Province. Most of the hazardous waste is generated in the eastern and southern areas, but the amounts are less than 14000 m3 per annum and these areas are close to Gauteng where there are hazardous waste sites. For more..
Last updated 18.05.2005  |  Responsible editor: Anna Mampye  |  Powered by Publikit®