Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Relinking the uMfolozi River to the St Lucia system has aided estuarine regeneration together with the recent good rains

Good news in an email from Rob Jamieson  led me to connect to the iSimagaliso web page which recounted: "Relinking the uMfolozi River to the St Lucia system has aided estuarine regeneration...   together with the recent good rains".


St Lucia Estuary on a visit in November 2012

Happy Mangroves after all the rains

Sedges, reeds and trees



Projek Aardwolf and iSimangaliso
Development versus conservation, see what Projek Aardwolf TV producer Johan Botha and team members Alti Fouche, Dirk Smit and Danie van der Walt (of 50/50) have to say about iSimangaliso. To be aired on Kyknet DSTV channel 144, on Sunday 23 December 2012 at 19h30. For those without DSTV, online at www.rooitrok.com at 20h30 on 23 December 2012.

Excellence in iSimangaliso
iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, managers of the world heritage site in KwaZulu-Natal, continues to be recognised for organisational and tourism excellence.
The organisation has recently received yet another accolade from its peers, in the form of winning the Golden Shield Award in the category of World Heritage Site of the Year, with “an impressive track record of heritage management in accordance with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).”


This achievement follows iSimangaliso’s qualification last year as one of three global finalists in the Destination Stewardship Category in the international ‘Tourism For Tomorrow ‘ Awards 2011. Said CEO Andrew Zaloumis, “we are gratified that the work of so many in making the iSimangaliso Wetland Park a prime destination while at the same time preserving all that is essential to South Africa’s first world heritage site has been recognised.”

Reinforcing iSimangaliso’s sound managerial practice is the fact that for the 10th consecutive year since its inception, the organisation has received a clean audit. The audit, which included a regularity and performance review (deliverables in the Board and Ministerial-approved business plan), concluded in July 2012. iSimangaliso tabled its annual report in Parliament through the Minister of Environmental Affairs and to the Portfolio Committee.

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs BEE Molewa, complimented iSimangaliso by saying, “Biodiversity can … create responsible and sustainable forms of growth. In iSimangaliso this is being done through a pioneering and innovative developmental conservation approach”.
Highlights

This year’s highlights included:
  • The expansion of the higher access to education programme (to universities and technikons) bringing the total number of supported students from rural communities at universities to 45;
  • The introduction of a wide range of historically occurring game into the Ozabeni Wilderness area (this part of the Park has been fenced for the first time);
  • The completion of rehabilitation on five sites which had been developed illegally;
  • The issuing of 46 new licences for activities, and the establishment of the only black-owned fishing charter operation in South Africa;
  • iSimangaliso offered support to 92 local SMMEs and created some 2269 temporary jobs in the year as well as 50 permanent jobs;
  • Revenue-share payments to claimants amounted to just over R619 000;
  • The upgraded Cape Vidal camp site and a number of new hides, viewing platforms and related day-visitor facilities opened to the public (fundamentally improving the product offering in the Park);
  • Four-hundred and eighty thousands visits to the Park were recorded including 137 schools during financial year 2011;
  • A new strategy for managing Lake St Lucia and the Estuary was implemented.

iSimangaliso’s accounting revenue for the year increased by 73%, from R81,0m in 2011 to R140,0m in 2012, largely as a result of an increase in the receipt of infrastructure grants. Park revenue increased by 8.8% from R8,3m to R9,1m primarily from revenue from the new licences; there was also some growth in gate revenue from the prior year.

Expenditure increased by 24%, from R71,5m in 2010 to R88,7m in the current year. This was attributable, in the main, to a R10,3m increase in project costs for the year, and R4,8m increase on operating expenses. The latter was largely a consequence of increases in security costs (R0,8m), utilities (R0,5m) and repairs and maintenance (R1,6m). There were no salary increases in the year; personnel costs as a percentage of expenditure comprised 9.7%. Capital expenditure in 2011/ 2012 was R59,9m, compared with R50,2m in 2010/2011, resulting in a net increase in property plant and equipment of R41.8 million.

The year’s surplus was R51,4m compared to a surplus of R9,4m in the previous year Cash and cash equivalents decreased by R11,8m, from R51,2m in 2011 to R39,4m in 2012.
iSimangaliso Board Chairperson Mavuso Msimang remarked “How good [it is] to give space to new ideas, to see things differently!”

“The new approach to conservation being implemented in iSimangaliso is laying down a solid foundation to ensure a balance is reached between conservation and the delivery of tangible benefits to its communities. In many ways it has, and is, influencing approaches to conservation practice in South Africa. iSimangaliso is also now being used as a best-practices case study for world heritage site managers by UNESCO. We are thinking - and doing - things differently.”

A copy of the Annual Report is available on request. Contact info@isimangaliso.com for further information.

Breaking News: Lake St Lucia
iSimangaliso’s St Lucia section received 76 mm of rain these past few days with the uMfolozi river flowing high and strong for at least 18 hours. Water levels as measured at the St Lucia bridge have risen by a dramatic 77cm since the 4th of December. The levels in the Narrows are now above mean sea level and there will be outflow from the system during low tides and push in during high. There is also a southward push from the lakes through to the Narrows as the lake level continues to rise and lake flow starts moving south. September and October’s spring rain was the highest experience in iSimangaliso in 15 years.

“This rain is not an instant fix but the increased water levels and flows through the mouth bring us another huge step closer to the restoration of the system” says Park CEO Andrew Zaloumis.
In 2011 iSimangaliso publicised its strategy to let the uMfolozi River and Lake St Lucia re-join in a bid to restore the functioning of South Africa’s largest estuarine system. Since 1952 the uMfolozi River has been deliberately kept separate from the St Lucia system, which has reduced freshwater inflow to the system and interfered with natural mouth dynamics. The July 2012 relinking of the uMfolozi River back to the St Lucia estuarine lake system was an important first step towards the restoration of estuarine function, one of the primary aims of the GEF project.

Since the linking of the uMfolozi back to St Lucia in early July 2012 water levels in the system have risen substantially as a result of catchment inputs and direct rainfall. As a direct result of the linkage of the uMfolozi to the system water levels in the Narrows (the 20km channel linking the lakes to the sea) lifted by 20cm. This resulted in northward flow from the Narrows into the lakes. Since then high rainfall and inputs from all the river catchments have added to this raising water levels. This raised water levels to the base of the previously exposed gauge plate at Charters Creek and since the 1 October 2012 this gauge has registered a further 60 cm rise as measured on 26 November 2012. The combination of the rise in water level to the gauge plate and the rise registered on the ruled gauge plate means that lake levels have risen by at least 80 cm. Since then levels have risen further and it is likely that a rise of at least 1m across the lake has occurred.

This is also easily seen in the change in the water body from a shallow veneer of water (on average approximately 10-15 cm deep) covering the more central portions of the lake to a wide connected water body which has moved much closer to the original shorelines of higher water levels. Analysis of satellite imagery when it becomes available will allow us to quantify what this means in percentage change of the lake’s water surface area."

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