In this meeting, the CEO of iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini reported on the promises he made in the previous meeting. Mr Bukhosini had promised to appoint an Ecologist and introduce him to the stakeholder meetings. As promised, the Ecologist was appointed and introduced to the meeting. He also introduced the service provider who will be reviewing the estuarine management plan and introduced the new iSimangaliso Board to stakeholders. Mr Bukhosini also explained that with these meetings, iSimangaliso is trying to correct the perception people have about government departments not working together in resolving this matter. iSimangaliso find it vital to have such meetings with relevant government sectors, rural community representatives, fishers, famers, business owners and various stakeholders to demonstrate the agreements made in dealing with this matter, outline work that will be done, timeframes and anticipated outcomes of those actions done by different government sectors to ensure this issue is resolved.
Communities and the affected parties believe that with the implemented activities, it shows that iSimangaliso is trying its level best to resolve the issues regarding the St. Lucia Estuarine system, and they hope the issue of the estuary system will be resolved soon. They requested that since the processes has come this far, they do not want anything that will stop or delay it.
Mr Reddy representing Rate Payers and Mr Mzonjani Gumede representing Dukuduku community said they are overwhelmed by the progress made thus far regarding the St. Lucia Estuarine system and the flooding of farms. Reminicing about the past, they recall that people used to come to the St Lucia lake to fish and others used to feed their families from the produce harvested from the farms that are currently inundated with water. For the fact that there is such progress regarding the issue of the estuarine, they hope by the end of 3 months, this issue would have been resolved because once the raining season comes again, the situation will be uncontrollable.
The iSimangaliso Ecologist, Dr Riaan Cedras delivering his presentation stated that there are 2 Environmental Management Acts options that can be used where one could apply for either Section 30 which deals with incidents and Section 30A which deals with emergency situations, according to Dr Cedras, the term is defined in subsection (1) of Section 30 of NEMA as "an unexpected, sudden, and uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance," which can result from things like a major emission, fire, or explosion, and which has already caused or may cause significant harm to the environment, human life, or property. Whereas Section 30A of NEMA defines a situation that has arisen unexpectedly and poses an imminent and serious threat to the environment, human life, or property, including Act 57 of 2002, but excluding an incident envisaged under section 30 of NEMA.
Dr Riaan Cedras explained that iSimangaliso notified the department (DFFE) of the above events and associated effects and requested to undertake the following activities:
Dr Cedras also reported that the outcome of the NEMA 30A legislation application was further denied on the 3rd of April 2023 on the basis of the following:
Dr Riaan also stated that the solutions to mitigate the impact on the environment to maintain the environmental integrity of lake St Lucia estuarine system, in terms of forecast, and the monitoring of suspended sediment yields into the St Lucia estuary system. This will assist iSimangaliso to do the monitoring and management of the dredging process which will enable iSimangaliso to take timely decisions and implement adaptive and corrective measures for the maintenance of a free-flow river channel.
Following the refusal of the Section 30A, the next approach is to conduct a Basic Assessment and the public participation process, which must be carried out and concluded within next three months. iSimangaliso must appoint the specialist who will work with the appointed Environmental Consultants in delivering at least 4 assessments being the Geotechnical/Engineer to assess the hydraulic performance and the ecological circumstance in the catchment system, Sedimentologist to study the constituents, textures, structures, and content of the deposits in order to identify the best approach to dredging and mitigating post-dredging impacts, the Vegetation/wetland specialist to document how removing excess sediment and alien vegetation impacted hydrology and plant assemblages both prior and post excavation, the Social-ecologist must be included to assess the impact and adverse effects on the social users and include the Marine biologist who will assess the abundance, diversity and biomass of key marine taxa in relation to environmental parameters.
The St Lucia estuary stakeholder meetings are held quarterly and attended by various stakeholders. The next meeting is set to be held in June 2023.
Statement issued by iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority
Media enquires contact:
Mr Bheki Manzini
Call/WhatsApp: 060 533 2082