Conservation And Education Projects
WESSA is involved in a diverse range of conservation issues and projects with WESSA’s core focus areas guiding our mandate and involvement. Conserving biodiversity is a key facet of our endeavours.
Baakens Valley Recovery Programme (BVRP)
WESSA in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM), and in collaboration with other stakeholders engaged in a programme funded by the Table Mountain Fund. The BVRP started in January 2009 after a successful 6-month pilot project had been completed.
The BVRP has sought to recover the Baakens Valley as a safe community resource and functional fynbos habitat. The Baakens Valley is a prominent natural feature of Port Elizabeth, NMBM. The river valley cuts across most of the city. It forms the backbone of the natural green corridors of the NMBM and much of it is set aside as Public Open Space. A large section of it is declared as the Settlers Park Nature Reserve.
The BVRP set out to recover the Baakens Valley as a safe community resource and functional fynbos habitat. The goal is to elevate the recreational use and tourism opportunities of the Baakens Valley through the implementation of a ‘Walk Safe Programme’, the creation of a Baakens Valley Environmental Education outreach and the holding of other public activities such as concerts and sports events in the Valley. Another major goal is the preservation of biodiversity within the Baakens Valley. A botanical survey has been completed resulting in the identification of several endangered species. A booklet setting out the history and biodiversity of flora and fauna of the valley has been produced.
Cape Recife Conservancy
In November 2008, the Friends of Cape Recife (FCR), a coalition of various landowners in the Cape Recife (CR) area, NGOs, sporting and recreational groups and individuals, achieved a dream two years in the making. This was to establish the CR area as a conservancy, as a mechanism for creating a safe recreational and environmental educational resource.
The CR area contains a unique blend of globally important and endangered plant and animal species, including St Francis Dune Fynbos-thicket Mosaic, Roseate Terns, otters and abalone. These are currently experiencing insufficient biodiversity conservation efforts and protection. The CR area was once popular with surfers, divers, tourists, bird watchers, walkers, fishermen and educational groups but this area had unfortunately been plagued by criminal activities such as car break-ins, muggings and poaching (buck and abalone) as well as problems relating to bush squatters and illegal dumping. This area had been rapidly falling into disuse and neglect.
In response to this, the FCR which includes WESSA as a founder member, developed the Cape Recife Conservancy to effectively conserve the biodiversity of the area, secure the area as a safe community recreational and enriching environmental educational asset and improve tourism opportunities. WESSA plays an active role in helping develop this conservancy and promoting public recreation at the conservancy by leading walking tours and promoting litter clean-ups in the area. Pictures below are from the 2010 Marine Week walk. WESSA has also established an effective working partnership with South African Marine Rehabilitation and Educational Centre (SAMREC) which is located in the conservancy. Marine Week and Coastal Clean up activities are all held at the Cape Recife Conservancy. Pictures below are from the 2010 Cape Recife Ramble during Marine Week.
Blue Flag Beaches Programme
The Blue Flag is an international award given only to those beaches that meet excellence in safety, amenities, cleanliness, and environmental management. There are 25 Blue Flag criteria that must be met yearly by participating beaches, in order to obtain this annual certificate. The Blue Flag Beaches Programme is managed in South Africa by WESSA. The Senior Conservation Officer monitors the Eastern Cape Beaches. These have included beaches at Kellys Beach (Port Alfred), Kariega-Kenton (Kenton-on-Sea), Wells Estate and Humewood Beach (both in Port Elizabeth), and Dolphin Beach (Jeffery’s Bay). However, some of these beaches have struggled to meet the requirements of the programme in recent years.
The Blue Flag Programme provides a fantastic vehicle to encourage municipalities to adopt appropriate environmental management standards, such as to secure sewage treatment, in the quest to obtain and retain the Blue Flag status symbol. Blue Flag beaches are shown to draw considerable investment and to attract international and local tourists.
Since the Coega IDZ concept was first proposed, WESSA-EP has been trying to ensure that the project is developed in the most environmentally sustainable manner and that companies that locate there are required to adhere to strict environmental management standards. Involvement in the project has included scrutinising the proposed service infrastructure development plans, building works and the various development proposals by companies wanting to locate there. WESSA represents the interests of several environmental NGO’s and for the environment through active involvement in the Environmental Monitoring Committee (EMC) for the IDZ. The new Port of Ngqura has exceeded expected shipping volumes. Protecting the biodiversity of the Bay from any possible negative impacts is an ongoing WESSA watchdog role. The Coega IDZ has implemented several innovations such as employing owls and eagles for vermin control, instead of using pesticides.
Environmental Impact Assessments
WESSA Eastern Cape: Port Elizabeth is currently registered as an interested and affected party in approximately 60 regional EIAs covering a wide spectrum of activities. These relate mostly to the establishment of wind farms, large resorts, housing estates, and industrial developments especially at Coega. WESSA is also responding to the EIA developments relating to the Nuclear Power Station Proposal at Thuyspunt near Cape St Francis. This siting is highly contested by local residents in the area.
In 2010, Morgan Griffiths together with Chris Galliers from WESSA National Office ran a successful three-day training programme on understanding EIA processes.
Aloes Wastesite Environmental Management Committee
WESSA is actively involved with monitoring the management of the Aloes High:Hazardous Wastesite, through representation on the Aloes Environmental Management Committee. It is encouraging to report that the waste management company, EnviroServ, has made great strides in improving the general management of the waste site to the benefit of both the environment and the adjacent Motherwell Township, through strict monitoring regimes and appropriate management responses. However, the Aloes H:H waste site will become full and will need to close in 2011. Since 2004, WESSA EP has been part of the EIA process to select a new regional H:H waste site.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Air Quality Forum
The new National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act mandates municipalities to establish Air Quality Forums where polluters, government and stakeholder groups can constructively engage to manage air pollution. WESSA has assisted the NMBM develop the terms of reference for their AQF, and is an invited stakeholder. While still in its infancy, this AQF has the potential to deliver meaningful improvements in minimising air pollution, through peer education and pressure.
Biodiversity conservation: Eastern Cape Implementation Committee
This committee of senior biodiversity and conservation planners in the Eastern Cape meets quarterly under the mandate of SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). WESSA is represented on this think-tank on issues of biodiversity conservation, conservation planning, coordinating inter-governmental land-use management, policy development and ecological research. The environmental management achievements of Blue Flag in the Eastern Cape have encouraged the ECIC to place Blue Flag as a standing item on its agenda.
Baviaanskloof Mega-Reserve Steering Committee
The BKMR was established in 2004 and is South Africa’s third largest protected area. It is also a declared World Heritage Site, managed by the Eastern Cape Parks Board with support from the Wilderness Foundation BKMR Project Management Unit. The BKMR Steering Committee comprises representatives of the BKMR managers, provincial and local government, tourism bodies, surrounding landowners, researchers and other stakeholder groups. WESSA is a founder member and its mandate is to represent the broader environmental concerns relating to the management and expansion of the BKMR.
WESSA supports participation by local schools in the internationally established environmental education Eco-Schools Programme. Eco-Schools is a programme designed to implement environmental education and sustainable development in schools. The programme employs a holistic, participatory approach, combining learning and action. It creates awareness of critical environmental issues and promotes behavioural change in young people and teachers as well as their families and their local communities. The Eco-Schools programme is run internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). Awards are made annually on the basis of the submission of a portfolio by a school that illustrates the satisfactory completion of lessons and projects related to specified environmental themes. Awards range from a Bronze certificate in the first year to a Merit certificate which can be achieved after more than five years of sustainable environmental education work at the school. In 2010, altogether twenty two schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay and St Francis region were awarded flags and certificates.
Schools are supported with guidance and materials in developing lesson plans relating to the five Eco-School themes namely: Resource Use, Global and Local Issues, Nature and Biodiversity, Healthy Living, and Community and Heritage. A strong focus is placed on water and energy issues.
Schools are also supported with their environmental projects such as with establishing food gardens for nutrition purposes, tree planting and waste recycling. Kwa-Ford Primary won first place in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality gardening competition in 2010. Canzibe Primary has a flourishing Orange-fleshed sweet potato nursery and held a very successful sweet potato harvest festival in 2010.
A related project to food gardens is the planting of Spekboom at schools to provide wind protection for their gardens and to promote carbon sequestration and education around climate change. The Spekboom plants are harvested from areas where development is taking place and Spekboom is being cleared.