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Lake St Lucia: understanding the problem and finding the solution

Lake St Lucia, a RAMSAR site within the iSimangaliso World Heritage site, is facing a very severe water shortage as a result of one of the most severe droughts in living memory. Historical alteration of the ecosystem upstream of the Park has significantly changed the functioning of the estuary. This has had an impact on the biodiversity of the system and given rise to a plethora of management solutions and interventions over the last 60 years.

The current drought has placed Lake St Lucia under increased stress. Public concern has heightened and the different views of residents, farmers, fishermen, tourism operators, tourists and visitors, local communities, scientists, nature lovers and conservationists have generated considerable constructive debate.

This document aims to provide the relevant information to inform, update and provide a BIG picture overview of how past human intervention in the estuary has contributed to the current situation and how climatic events and natural forces have shaped it over many years. The history of the Lake is told as an illustrated story and takes the reader to the present day.

This background sets the scene for iSimangaliso’s GEF (Global Environmental Facility) project which is currently underway and aims to formulate longer term solutions based on the best available scientific knowledge. Research collaboration has already paid off as new research on the mouth dynamics of Lake St Lucia is being used in the management strategy over the next 24 months.

As far as Lake St Lucia is concerned, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, the statutory body responsible for the conservation of the Park and protection of its world heritage values, together with its implementation partner Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is primarily concerned with improving the ecological health and sustainable functioning of the entire 70km long estuary and thus, provide optimal benefits to existing stakeholders and future generations.

Andrew Zaloumis, Chief Executive Officer, iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Bandile Mkhize, Chief Executive Officer, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

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