President Jacob Zuma delivers the state of the nation address in Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday. Picture: PARLIAMENT OF RSA
President Jacob Zuma delivers the state of the nation address in Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday. Picture: PARLIAMENT OF RSA

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address placed welcome emphasis on "social infrastructure" and mentioned the roll out of renewable energy projects, but did not tackle key environmental issues, the World Wide Fund for Nature SA (WWF-SA) said on Friday.

"Key environmental issues were not addressed," the WWF-SA said in a statement. "What is even more worrying is that these very issues will have a profound effect on the future health of our economy and wellbeing of our people."

Social infrastructure typically includes assets that accommodate social services, including schools, universities, hospitals, prisons and community housing.

WWF-SA said it "demanded" to see how the catchments that would supply the two new dams Mr Zuma spoke of in the address to Parliament on Thursday evening. "We note the mention of the development of two new dams, but demand to see how the catchments that will supply these dams will be managed.

"This was not outlined in last night’s speech and highlights South Africa’s continued water challenges. Thus, in our obsession with engineering infrastructure, we appear to ignore our ecological infrastructure."

Construction of the bulk water distribution system for the De Hoop Dam began in October last year, Mr Zuma said. This was to supply water to the Greater Sekhukhune, Waterberg and Capricorn district municipalities, while the Eastern Cape’s Umzimvubu Dam was "critical for rural livelihoods".

Work on the Umzimvubu Dam would begin next year.

WWF-SA said further said it would like to see "greater leadership" on how the effect of coal mining on water resources would be minimised.

A recent analysis by WWF-SA indicated that only 8% of South Africa’s land surface generated 50% of the rainfall run-off. Much of this right was on top of abundant coal resources.

"We had, therefore, hoped that the president will explicitly deal with the conflict between water and coal," WWF-SA said.

The roll out of renewable energy projects was "a very important part of the green economy". But for these to have "lasting and beneficial (effect) on our economy", South Africa needed to move away from its minerals intensive economy to other growth sources.

Mr Zuma’s speech has been widely criticised as lacklustre.