Living together in a healthy environment
  • Caring for the Earth is not just about protecting biodiversity; it’s about living in ways that ensure a healthy environment now and in the future.

  • In addition to the destruction of natural habitats (fragmentation) and the invasion of alien species, three other factors put pressure on our environment:

    • Population pressure
    • Over-consumption
    • Pollution

  • In this section we will look briefly at some of these pressures, their impacts on people and nature, and what we can do to live more sustainably in the City of Cape Town.









Population pressure

In the ten years from 1996 to 2006 the population of Cape Town grew by 700 000, from 2.5 million to 3.2 million people. The population is growing more slowly now than it did in the 1990s but even so, by 2020, the population is expected to exceed four million. This increase is due to two factors:

  • More people are being born than are dying,

  • People are moving to Cape Town from other places.









Urbanisation is happening all over the world. People move to towns and cities looking for jobs and social services like education and health care. However, rapid urbanisation creates many challenges.

Cape Town is battling to address the needs of all its people:

  • Many people are living in informal settlements or backyard shacks because there is not enough affordable housing;
  • Unemployment is high: there are few jobs for unskilled workers;
  • Many informal settlements are poorly serviced, resulting in health problems from uncollected rubbish and poor sanitation.





Two health challenges:

One of the reasons why population growth is slowing down in Cape Town is because more people are dying of diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB). Both these diseases make it difficult for people to work, which increases poverty and social problems.

TB spreads quickly in damp, densely populated and poorly serviced informal settlements on the Cape Flats, especially among people whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS. Health services are battling to cope with growing numbers of sick people.










Mahatma Gandhi, one of the wisest leaders the world has ever known, once said: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.” Many of Cape Town’s natural resources are threatened because some people take more than they need:

  • The Cape Flats Erica is a beautiful flowering plant that went extinct in the wild because of over-picking.
  • Today over-harvesting threatens Perlemoen (Abalone) and line fish populations.
  • Sand mining for the building industry is destroying the Macassar Dunes.
  • As in colonial times, uncontrolled hunting is threatening many of the animals that survive on the Cape Flats.









Sharing resources

Cape Town’s natural resources need to be shared with a large and growing population. The people of Cape Town have shown that they are willing to reduce their consumption of scarce resources so that there is enough for everyone:

  • Since 2001 when a serious drought led to the introduction of water restrictions, the average water use per person in Cape Town has fallen by 15%.
  • People learned to use less electricity in 2006 when the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was producing less power than normal.

Sustainable living means living simply and sharing generously, so that there will be “some for all forever”.











Cape Town’s population has grown rapidly over the last ten years. At the same time, we have been consuming more than ever before. As a result we produce huge amounts of waste that pollute the air, water and soil.









Solid waste
  • In only five years (1999 - 2004), the amount of waste dumped at landfill sites in Cape Town grew by 43%. On average, each person threw away 1.8 kilograms of waste every day (660 kg per year) in 2004.
  • Cape Town has already closed two landfill sites and only four sites remain open (Vissershok, Coastal Park, Faure, Bellville). These will be full before the end of 2007, but three of the sites will be expanded. Nobody wants a landfill site near their home but it is very expensive to transport waste out of the city.
  • We must all reduce the amount of waste we produce because landfill space is severely limited. This means reducing what we consume, reusing and repairing items, and recycling waste.










Water pollution

Many sources of pollution contaminate Cape Town’s rivers and wetlands:

  • soil erosion makes the water muddy
  • litter can hurt people and animals using rivers and wetlands, and creates places where mosquitoes and other pests breed
  • sewage from leaking sewers can spread diseases like diarrhoea
  • fertilizer from gardens, golf courses and farms causes water plants to grow rapidly and choke water bodies
  • waste water from factories can contain poisonous chemicals
  • motor oil from garages and road surfaces makes the water dirty and can poison animals.

The River Health Programme monitors rivers and wetlands throughout the Western Cape and rates them as Natural, Good, Fair or Poor. In 2005 in Cape Town, 65% of sites were rated either Fair or Poor. Only six of the 43 sites were rated as Natural.









Air pollution
  • Motor vehicles, industry and fires contribute to serious air pollution problems in Cape Town. The brown haze that hangs over the city on still days affects people’s health, particularly those who suffer from asthma, bronchitis and tuberculosis (TB).
  • When fuels like wood, coal, paraffin and petrol are burned a gas called carbon dioxide is produced.  CO2 is a greenhouse gas as well as one of the gases that produces acid rain. South Africa is the 14th highest CO2 producer in the world. On average, each person in Cape Town is responsible for producing of 6.27 tons of CO2 per year!
  • We can all help to reduce the amount of CO2 produced in Cape Town by using less energy. This means walking or cycling rather than driving, and using energy sparingly in the home.