Although South Africa has the second strongest economy in Africa, with a Gross Domestic Product of $298 Billion USD (2016)1, and many parts to it that would be considered first world2, it is still regarded as a developing country. Among other factors like corruption and inefficient government bureaucracy, a big contributing factor to their developing status is due to the large proportion of its population (26,6%) being placed below the poverty line.
In 2015, 150 states from across the globe, including South Africa, agreed to abide by the contemporary 2030 agenda for sustainable development, which includes the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG’s). SDG’s are “a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.”
Although South Africa has made progress towards these goals, they have been heavily critiqued for developing unsustainably. South Africa still over relies on extractive industries, and have heavily under-provided good environmental services, especially to the poor. Environmental services like water and sanitation, effective waste collection and disposal, and good drainage systems are paramount to a well functioning society. A psychological experiment conducted by Stanford University in 1969 aimed to “explain the cause of varying behaviors between different socio-economic groups”.
However during this experiment, they made an interesting connection between Broken windows theory and waste pollution, and highlighted why environmental services are so important. Broken windows theory states that if there is visible crime and vandalism, more will follow, and they same applies to pollution. If there is insufficient city maintenance and litter is common place, why should anyone care about trying to keep it clean? This leads me to my next point; the fact that the government has not implemented sufficient environmental education in schools and communities, which would raise awareness about environmental issues that affect everyone in South Africa, and especially those living in Townships (informal settlements), who make up 24.35% (11.6 million people) of the population.
Unfortunately, the socio-economic group that is affect the most by the consequences of unsustainable development are the people that are least equipped to deal with it; citizens below the poverty line. A serious health risk is posed to those that live in Townships due to contaminated water supplies and pollution from sources that are often nearby. In addition to this, citizens below the poverty line are often dependent on natural recourses for the lively hood and are severely impacted when those are compromised.
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