Ecologically sustainable: St Lucia on its way to recovery

2012-10-10 00:00

LAKE St Lucia, which has been battling for over a decade to be ecologically sustainable, is on its way to recovery after more than 60 years since it was first disrupted by the agricultural industry.

The implementation of the new “one-mouth” management strategy has seen more than 16,4 billion liters of fresh water enter the system during the first eight weeks of a newly-created beach spillway, raising the level of the lake “narrows” by around 25 cm.

It has reconnected with the uMfolozi River after nearly 60 years of reduced water flow largely as a result of agriculture and the redirection of the river to protect the farming land from flooding.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority chief Andrew Zaloumis said the lake was put under further pressure by a decade long drought, one of the most severe in living memory.

“This prolonged period of below average rainfall raised iSimangaliso’s concern on the state of the lake system and resulted in the iSimangaliso Global Environmental Facility (GEF) project.

“The different views of residents, farmers, fishermen, tourism operators, tourists and visitors, local communities, scientists, nature lovers and conservationists have generated considerable constructive debate and input into the project,” he said.

Historical alteration of the ecosystem upstream of the park has significantly changed the functioning of the estuary since the 1950’s.

This has had an impact on the biodiversity of the system and given rise to a plethora of management solutions and interventions over the last 60 years.

He said based on sound new science and as part of the GEF project, a process is underway by the iSimangaliso Authority with its conservation partner Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, to restore as far as possible the natural hydrological and ecological functioning of the system.

“This includes allowing the uMfolozi and Lake St Lucia estuary mouths to join to form a combined mouth, in essence a reversal of a 60 year-old management approach.

“The park is primarily concerned with improving the ecological health and sustainable functioning of the entire 70 kilometre long Lake St Lucia system and thus provide optimal benefits to existing stakeholders and future generations,” said Zaloumis.

— Witness Reporter.

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