Cape Town - Conservation group WWF-SA is hoping President Zuma will tackle urgent environmental concerns in his State of the Nation Address on Thursday, as well as dealing with critical subjects like education, employment and health.

The group says there is a “strong need for environmental prioritisation” and has put together a short wish-list with four key issues and recommendations:

l No fracking without environmental safeguards.

l Provide leadership on minimising the affect of coal mining on water.

l Introduce joint operations with both Vietnam and Mozambique to cut poaching of rhinos.

l Create opportunities for alternative energy sources.

Last year WWF-SA expressed “deeply disappointment” at the cabinet’s decision to lift the moratorium on shale-gas exploration using fracking.

“We maintain our scepticism on the issue of fracking, and are of the view that the moratorium should have remained in place so that environmental externalities, such as the water and carbon footprints, associated with shale-gas exploration could be properly interrogated,” Saliem Fakir, head of the group’s Living Planet Unit, said at the time.

He said lifting the moratorium placed some of South Africa’s sensitive ecological systems under serious threat. But the group had welcomed Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu’s commitment last year to adopting an integrated licensing system and to prohibit mining in ecologically-sensitive areas, as well as her acknowledgment of environmental challenges in Mpumalanga, which was vital for water production. - Cape Argus