Special Environment Days
Every year, special international days (as set out by the United Nations) on which particular environmental issues are focused on, and are celebrated all over the world. South Africa also recognises some additional special environmental problems by including other focus areas.
2 February – World Wetlands Day
The 2nd February marks the date of the signing of the Ramsar Convention in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971. World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time in 1997 and made an encouraging beginning. Each year, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits.
Wetlands are valuable in supporting life by
- their ability to purify and store water;
- their ability to ensure sustained water production by catchments;
- providing humans with a range of services, functions and products that have direct economic, social and cultural value; and
- being the warehouse of biodiversity through maintaining plant and animal species.
Visit – www.wetland.org.za
3rd week in March – National Water Week
Each year the Department of Water Affairs celebrates National Water Week in South Africa during the month of March which also features the World Water Day on the 22 March. The primary aim of this campaign is to raise awareness among South Africans about the role of water in social and economic development including the need to get citizens to change their attitudes towards water use.
The campaign emphasizes water conservation as one of the major interventions that South Africans need to appreciate if we are to guarantee water security and availability for the country. It also highlights the centrality of water as a resource in the well being of both the environment and people.
Visit – www.dwaf.gov.za
22 March – World Day for Water
‘World Water Day’ has been observed on March 22 since its declaration by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.
This day was first formally proposed in Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at the Rio Summit, in Brazil. Observance began in 1993 and has grown significantly ever since.
The UN and its member nations devote this day to implementing UN recommendations and promoting concrete activities within their countries regarding the world’s water resources. Each year, one of various UN agencies involved in water issues takes the lead in promoting and coordinating international activities for World Water Day.
In South African, this annual event focuses public attention on the importance of water, one of South Africa’s most limited resources.
23 March – World Meteorological Day
In 1960 the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) decided that 23 March should be celebrated as World Meteorological Day. The purpose is to focus attention on the important role that meteorology and meteorological services play in the general welfare of mankind.
- Climatological data collected and processed over many years by the South African Weather Service play an extremely important role during the planning phase in the construction industry (buildings, dams, bridges, etc.), in agriculture, forestry and aviation, determining flood levels, etc.
- Timely forecasts of hazardous weather (extremes of cold and heat, heavy rain, etc.) can save the country millions of rand every year.
A new theme and a slogan are chosen annually to improve the public’s understanding of the activities of the Weather Service.
Visit – www.wmo.int/worldmetday/
Last Saturday in March (date varies each year) – Earth Hour
Hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments around the world unite each year to support the largest environmental event in history – Earth Hour.
More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour 2011 alone, sending a powerful message for action on climate change. It also ushered in a new era with members going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action for the planet. Without a doubt, it’s shown how great things can be achieved when people come together for a common cause.
Visit – www.earthhour.org/
22 April – Earth Day
Earth Day was allegedly pioneered by John McConnell in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco and was intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment and to celebrate the wonder of life on our planet
Earth Day gives us an opportunity to make a fresh commitment to care for the Earth and to consider ways in which we can become proactive in caring for our precious Planet..
Visit – www.earthday.org
1st week in May – National Bird Week
Birds are excellent flagships and important environmental indicators. By focusing on birds, the sites and the habitats on which they depend, BirdLife South Africa hopes to improve the quality of life for birds, for other wildlife and ultimately for people.
Each year a Bird of the Year is chosen by BirdLife South Africa; the Barn Swallow was the designated bird for 2011, The fish Eagle for 2012 and the White-winged Flufftail for 2013.
Visit BirdLife SA’s website – www.birdlife.org.za
22 May – International Day for Biological Diversity
In 1993, the United Nations proclaimed May 22 International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
5 June – World Environment Day | 1st week in June – World Environment Week
World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment Day activities take place all year round but climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere.
World Environment Day celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.
Through World Environment Day, the UN Environment Programme is able to personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.
World Environment Day is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.
Everyone counts in this initiative and World Environment Day relies on you to make this happen! We call for action – organize a neighbourhood clean-up, stop using plastic bags and get your community to do the same, plant a tree or better yet organize a collective tree planting effort, walk to work, start a recycling drive . . . the possibilities are endless.
Visit www.unep.org/wed/ for more information
17 June – World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on 17 June 1994. It acknowledged that desertification and drought are problems of a global dimension which affect all regions of the world and that joint action by the international community is needed to combat this situation, particularly in Africa.
The purpose of this day is to promote awareness of
- the significance of desertification and land degradation,
- the need for international cooperation to combat desertification, and
- the effects of drought and of activities relating to the implementation of this convention.
11 July – World Population Day
World Population Day was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989 as a way to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues.
Each year UNFPA selects a different theme to rally around. World Population Day
1st week in September – Arbor Week
Arbor Week has been celebrated South Africa since 1983. Two trees, one common and one rare, are highlighted to increase public awareness of indigenous trees, while various “greening” activities are undertaken by schools, businesses and other organizations.
As sources of building material, food, medicine, and simple scenic beauty, trees play a vital role in the health and well-being of our communities.
16 September – International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
The United Nations’ International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is celebrated on September 16 every year. This event commemorates the date of the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987.
On this day activities are focused on topics related to the ozone layer, climate change and ozone depletion.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that have been specifically tailored educational packages to address topics about the earth’s ozone layer.
3rd week in September – National Clean-up Week
Launched in 2007, National Clean-up Week was first celebrated under the theme “Wake up & clean up – working together for a cleaner and safer South Africa”.
National Cleanup Week encourages South Africans to take care of themselves and their environment by cleaning up the areas where they live. But more importantly, it should encourage everyone to practice a healthier, cleaner way of living. It calls for us to focus on improved health, cleaner surroundings and a reduced community footprint.
16 September – Recycling Day
Recycling Day falls during Cleanup SA Week
In order to encourage South Africans to recycle at home, school and at work and buy products made with recycled material, The aim is to increase awareness by educating the community about the social, environmental and economic benefits of recycling.
- Recycling benefits both the environment and the economy.
- Less energy is used when recycled materials are included in the manufacturing process
- Benefits the South African economy as it decreases the necessity to import raw materials
- Opportunities for income generation and alleviation of poverty through job creation
- Prevents litter
- Contributes to a cleaner, greener and healthier South Africa
- Less waste, creates more landfill space
- Pride in our environment
Visit – www.recyclingday-sa.co.za/
Less is More – Old is New – Recycle! & Perhaps Up-cycle?!
UpCycling – Upcycle was born from our need as creative individuals to create usable and useful items from the things that surround us so as to improve the lives of the people on this planet. By taking a few unwanted items in the house and then slicing, cutting, gluing or simply painting, you can create beautiful and imaginative new objects.
24 September – Heritage Day
On Heritage Day, we areencouraged to celebrate their cultural heritage and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people. It is the day to celebrate the contribution of all South Africans to the building of South Africa.
1st Monday in October – World Habitat Day
World Habitat Day is observed every year on the first Monday of October throughout the world. It was officially designated by the United Nations and first celebrated in 1986. The purpose of the day is to reflect on the state of our cities and towns and the basic human right to adequate shelter. It also aims to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the habitat of future generations.
2nd Wednesday in October – International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction
The International Day was declared by the UN General Assembly on 21 December 2009 to be observed annually on 13th October. The objective of the observance is to raise awareness how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters
The International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) encourages every citizen and government to take part in building more disaster resilient communities and nations
2nd week in October – “Weedbuster” Week
The week, initiated by the Department of Water Affairs aims to raise awareness amongst all citizens of this country with a special emphasis on local and domestic travellers as well as private landowners of the threat that invasive species pose on natural resources.
Visit – www.dwaf.gov.za
3rd Week in October – National Marine Week
National Marine Day is celebrated in the third week of October, at the start of the summer season when large numbers of South Africans visit coastal areas and interact with the marine environment. This day originated in South Africa in 1988, and aims to focus public attention on:
- the marine environment and
- the importance of the oceans to life on earth.
Activities for the day are coordinated by the Chief Directorate: Marine and Coastal Management within the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. A theme is chosen annually to celebrate different aspects of the marine environment.
More info: www.nationalmarineweek.org.za/
16 October – World Food Day
World Food Day (WFD) was established by FAO’s Member Countries at the Organization’s 20th General Conference in November 1979. The day aims to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.
4th Saturday in November– Birding Big Day
The annual BirdLife SA Birding Big Day is a fun, yet competitive day for South Africa’s birdwatchers, both beginners and competitive twitchers, while at the same time raising much needed funds for the organisation’s important bird conservation and bird species monitoring work.
Visit – www.birdlife.org.za/events/birding-big-day for more information
1 December – World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day is observed on 1 December every year and is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.
Visit – www.aids.org.za