Grassland being restored

2010-08-18 00:00

MOTORISTS driving along the Old Howick Road between Hilton and the city may have noticed that the giant red slash across the Ketelfontein or World’s View mistbelt grassland is slowly disappearing under a layer of jute matting.

Work has started on the final stages of the environmental rehabilitation of the route of Umgeni Water’s bulk-water pipeline between the D.V. Harris water treatment plant and the World’s View reservoir. Some 820 metres of the pipeline goes through the World’s View grassland, which has been proclaimed a conservation area since 1995 in terms of the Msunduzi Municipality’s town plan.

This is all that remains of grasslands that originally covered most of the Ketelfontein and Hilton areas, and is reportedly the only remaining example within the municipal area.

Because of the environmentally sensitive nature of the hillside, the contractor, Icon Construction, was forced to work within a 15 metre-wide servitude. The new 920 mm-diameter pipeline was placed parallel to an existing, similar-sized pipeline that was laid in the 1960s. The pipeline corridor is currently being covered with a layer of biodegradable, erosion-control blanket on top of a layer of cut grass mulch. Next, workers will replant endemic grass seed and many indigenous plants that were removed before work on the pipeline began, says Umgeni Water’s corporate stakeholder manager, Shami Harichunder.

The BioJute erosion-control blanket is designed to protect the topsoil from raindrop impact when the summer rains begin, slow down run-off water and create a micro-climate for seed germination. The jute is absorbent, retaining two litres of water per square metre of fabric.

The area has already been remodelled and the topsoil, which was stripped and stockpiled in specially demarcated areas, has been replaced.

Harichunder said the detailed rehabilitation programme is designed to achieve a habitat and biome “as close as possible to that which existed before the construction”.

To do this, the topsoil replaced was that which was originally removed from the grassland, which contains a unique mixture of bulbs and seeds. The rehabilitation specialist working with Icon Construction says it is not practical to recreate a grassland such as the one at Ketelfontein immediately, “but the rehabilitation process is designed to help the environmental repair as far as economically and practically possible”.

The specialist also criticises “insensitive individuals” who ride motorcycles and dump rubbish in the area under rehabilitation, even though there is an official garden refuse disposal site 200 metres from the lower entrance to Ketelfontein.

Harichunder says all rehabilitation measures will be completed by December.

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