Unesco ready to help protect Kogelberg biosphere amid drilling programme

2018-10-06 10:10

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Unesco has offered South Africa "technical support" to protect the Kogelberg biosphere and preserve the Unesco status of the reserve, which has one of the highest levels of biodiversity and endemism on the planet. 

Unesco chief of media services George Papagiannis said this week that "Unesco was ready to provide technical support to ensure that activities undertaken are within the requirements of the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of Unesco's Man and Biosphere programme (MAB)". 

The MAB programme is an intergovernmental programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environments.

On Friday morning, chairperson of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve Company (KBRC) Michael du Toit welcomed the offer and called on the South African MAB national committee to engage with Unesco for its support. Du Toit said he would be writing to the committee, as well as to the national Department of Environmental Affairs.

Chairperson of the South African MAB national committee Ihron Rensburg is currently out of the country and referred our enquiries to the national department, which has declined to respond.

Last week Du Toit warned that he would not pay lip service to the ideals and principles of the Unesco programme while the City disregarded the concerns of the KBRC. "If this continues," he added, "the KBRC will not sign off the 10-year report that Unesco is expecting to keep our MAB status." 

Untreated water running directly into dam

In Unesco's response, Papagiannis said the periodic 10-year review, due in September 2020, would be "an opportunity to bring this issue to the attention of the MAB council".

"In the meantime, Unesco is ready to provide any technical support requested by a member state." 

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town is currently pumping approximately 1.728 million litres of groundwater per day from one test borehole in the Kogelberg biosphere. According to workers at the test site, 20 litres of groundwater have been pumped from 300m below ground, every second, for the last seven days.

Water from the borehole is running directly into the Steenbras Dam, just a few hundred metres from the borehole.

The water is being extracted from the Table Mountain Group Aquifer; part of the City of Cape Town's water augmentation programme that earlier this year sparked the concern of environmentalists who wrote to the City warning against the drilling.

There is no indication that the water is being treated before entering the dam, which has once again raised the concern of environmentalist Jasper Slingsby of the South African Environmental Observation Network who said "from discussions with people at the Department of Water and Sanitation I had thought this was a no-go without treatment". 

'This is not the way to go about it'

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