Project to help save water, the natural way

2014-09-26 00:00

SAVING the Greater uMgeni River Catchment has become one of the Presidential Special Infrastructure Projects (SIP).

The uniqueness of this project is that it is not about steel and concrete but ecological infrastructure, explained environmental management expert Kevan Zunckel, guest speaker at the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) Agri and Enviro Sense Forum on Tuesday.

Zunckel said ecological infrastructure referred to a functioning ecosystem that has its own ability to regulate itself. Such a system could naturally carry out the filtration process. In other words, said Zunckel, it is nature’s ability to provide a water and sanitation service.

He added that this ability over time had been reduced by sediment overload in the rivers and dams, and degradation of the catchment area through a host of practices.

These included over-grazing, poor farming methods, over-utilisation of the land, too many human settlements close to the rivers and invasive plants. The result is that the amount of water being carried by the river systems had been drastically reduced, while at the same time demand for water resources was growing.

Zunckel said planners initially looked at engineering solutions, but these had proved too costly and unsustainable. He cited the example of New York City that needed to develop a water treatment plant. They realised that building one from scratch would require billions of dollars. They took the alternate route and invested in catchments and ecological infrastructure, he said.

Zunckel confirmed that the “Saving Midmar Dam” plan, discussed in an earlier article in The Witness, was part of this broader Special Ecological Infrastructure project.

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