Working for Wetlands has done sterling work on erosion on Egoli Granite Grassland in Doornrandje. Several gabions have been built and more are nearing completion.
Wetlands play a crucial role in reducing flood and drought impacts, purifying water and working as sponges in the landscape. Since 2004, more than 800 wetlands in South Africa have been rehabilitated at a cost of about R500 million. Studies suggest that between 35% and 60% of South Africa’s wetlands have already been lost or are severely degraded.
For years VeldTalk has routinely urged action against Pompom weed, the “Pink peril”. But this peril is but one of the invaders of concern. Action is also needed against Verbena, Lantana, Queen of the night, Seringa, Red sesbania, Mexican poppy, and Bugweed. In the wetlands there are additional problems plants - Giant reed and Yellow flag iris.
The route to formal proclamation of the Crocodile River Reserve (CRR) as a Nature Reserve has as many kinks as the Crocodile River itself! The envisaged Reserve covers the region of the present Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy and a large area east of the R511.
The CRR is working with a new team from the Gauteng Department of Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD has been absorbed into this Department).
A planning meeting took place on 29 October to coordinate the assessment of various properties by the Department. There will be an on-the-ground assessment only where significant ecological value has been noted. Arrangements for access will be made with landowners directly where required.
• The heirs to the fabled Rockefeller oil fortune withdrew their funds from fossil fuel investments recently, lending a symbolic boost to a R550 billion divestment campaign ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change.
More than 800 global investors - including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, cities and universities have also pledged to withdraw their share of the R550 billion from fossil fuel investments over the next five years.
• Greenpeace reports that more than 90,000 people signed a petition to save Mahan Forest in India from Essar, the mining company that wants to destroy the forest for coal mining.
“India's Supreme Court has scrapped over 200 coal mining licences. This includes almost all licences issued in the past 17 years.
“The court was horrified by the corruption it found. Mining companies and government officials were working together to make themselves rich at everyone’s expense. And we all paid the price too: coal is the world's number one source of climate-wrecking CO2. It's an opportunity for India to choose renewables over coal, bringing clean power to the 300 million people still without electricity.”
• Faerie Glen Nature Reserve and Colbyn Wetland Nature Reserve in Pretoria were officially declared to be Nature Reserves by the MEC for GDARD on 25 June 2014. They now have additional protection, which is excellent news!
The Colbyn wetland is very valuable as a large proportion of it consists of peat, estimated to be 7 000 years old. Peat is moist organic material which contains a lot of water. Peatlands are also the most efficient ecosystems for storing carbon - as carbon sinks they can store carbon for thousands of years but their degradation is a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Peat contains 33% of the world’s carbon and 10% of its water.
Recently the World Wildlife Fund released the 2014 Living Planet Report. The top line message is that vertebrate populations have declined by an average of 52% between 1970 and 2010. More than half in four decades. In the tropics the figure is a terrifying 83%.
The reasons given were the growing demands of the human population. More people are ploughing grasslands, polluting waters, clearing forests and emptying the oceans of fish. “We are borrowing from our future to pay for our present. Every year we take more natural resources than we took the year before,” the Report stated.
The report had one jewel, however: ”Just this past year, Nepal celebrated 365 days without a single poaching incident of tigers, rhinos or elephants. In fact, the country's tiger population increased by 63% between 2009 and 2013.”
In 2007, then environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, told Parliament South Africa had 1 321 landfill sites, of which 629 were unauthorised and 58 regarded as hazardous.
South Africa still has 247 unlicensed waste sites, according to a recent government-commissioned study to identify such waste sites.
Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, recently said 178 of the waste disposal sites were in the process of being licensed as part of a project undertaken in 2011 to process illegal sites.
She said the department would launch a "national compliance and enforcement operation" in coming months, and was ready to close down illegal sites if need be.
Ivan Parkes, chairman of the Gauteng Conservancies and Stewardship Association, lives in Walkerville, south of Joburg and is unimpressed. “Most landfills in South Africa are in a bad state even if they are registered and licensed,” he says. “In 2003 our landfill was upgraded. It was a model site and all the requirements were in place - public participation, EIA, etc, but in a recent audit done by GDARD it received only an 87% compliance. On our daily site inspections we find that at least 12 minimum requirements are not adhered to. Our site has since turned from a model landfill site to a dump. We’ll keep fighting.”
The Mbeubeuss waste dump in Senegal covers 175 hectares - a malodorous, contaminated world with towering hills of fly-infested waste shrouded in smoke from innumerable fires. It takes 475 000 tonnes of rubbish a year.
The world’s 50 biggest waste dumps are growing in size, affecting the health of over 60-million people and polluting rivers, lakes and the oceans. Eighteen of the biggest dumps are in Africa, topped by Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. All pose a serious threat to human health and water supplies, and all are located within or close to fast-growing cities in poor or low-income countries.
What does each of us do with our daily waste?
Reminder: Burning or burying rubbish is contrary to City of Tshwane by-laws.
Allen Versfeld of Hennops River was sitting in the pitch dark outside his house with a telescope and a camera on October 19. As an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer, he was waiting to get a pic of a glowing comet flying past Mars at about 200 000 kph, its core of ice and dust barely missing the Red Planet and the costly scientific spacecraft circling the planet.
"I wish I could find the orchid," says Paris wistfully having ticked off no less than 20 veld flowers on her "treasure" list already. Three young treasure hunters had spent the morning alternately leaping from rock to rock, and with their heads buried in reference books comparing a specimen to the details in the book.
Cry for a river
“The Hennops River has gone from a beautiful, clear stream to a filthy sewer in the past 10 years,” says John Ritchie, who has lived on the banks of the river for 32 years.
“I believe that it’s sewage overflow as I have been told there’s a problem at the source of the Hennops. I also understand there is a discharge from the Sunderland Ridge Industrial Complex which eventually enters the Hennops near Laudium. I wish there was someone who had the power to do something about this.”
Our Acacias are no longer Acacias! They are now called either Vachellia or Senegalia. So our beloved Sweet thorn/Soetdoring is no longer Acacia Karroo but is burdened with Vachellia karroo. All because of the sneaky Australians.
It is with great glee - oops, grief - that we have to announce that one South African hill has trumped the entire British Isles - again. The Tree Walk on 18 October in Vlakfontein in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy netted 40 indigenous species of trees. The UK has 38 indigenous species.
Cheryl Dehning of the Tree Society led the leisurely walk up World’s View Hill with its breath-taking views. To the north stretched three misty mountain ranges - the Schurveberg, the Witwatersberg and the Magaliesberg beyond. To the south the banks of the Jukskei River created a bright green swathe through the grasslands.
View over the Jukskei River