Wetland headache now a plus

Biodiversity and natural resource management award Runner-up: Eskom’s Ingula Partnership

Eskom’s Ingula pumped storage scheme, which is needed to supplement the national grid with extra power during peak times, caused controversy when it was proposed in 2003 because it would be situated in an important wetland area and threatened the habitat of the critically endangered white-winged flufftail.

Eskom managed to mitigate the controversy by forming the Ingula partnership with BirdLife South Africa and the Middelpunt Wetlands Trust. It has led to the imminent proclamation of a new wetland nature reserve on the Drakensberg escarpment straddling KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State. The reserve could form the core of a larger conservation area that would preserve the endemic plants and animals, said Eskom’s environmental adviser, Kishaylin Chetty.

This was Eskom’s first construction to become ISO 14001 certified, said Chetty, and the company had applied to proclaim the wetland under the Ramsar Convention. “The whole partnership began in 2003 when Eskom decided to purchase the land and the environmental impact assessment produced lots of opposition because it was next to a highly critical wetland that contained ­several red-data bird and mammal species,” he said.

It quickly became clear that the wetland could be saved if the organisations worked together on the environmental aspects of the project.

The area is home to a number of critically endangered bird species. A task team was set up to monitor their habitat and more than 200 bird species have returned to the area. “We have stuck to the environmental impact assessment outcomes and recommendations and are doing far more besides,” said Chetty.

The Greening judges praised the partnership for producing a win-win solution that has conserved biodiversity and natural resources. “They have succeeded in overcoming the negatives by putting the right mitigation measures into place.”

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