The Greater Lakenvlei Wetland has been declared a Protected Environment, in terms of sections 28(1)(a)(i) and (b) of NEM:PAA, by MEC, Mr. Vusi Shongwe, of the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs (DARDLEA). The declaration represents a major milestone for conservation of South Africa’s critical water sources, threatened ecosystems and biodiversity.

The Greater Lakenvlei Wetland is located within Emakhazeni Local Municipality on the borders of Ehlanzeni District Municipality, one of the district municipalities currently implementing the award winning LAB: Wetlands SA Project. The wetland is some 14 305 ha in size and considered to be of critical importance as it provides crucial habitat for a significant number of endangered flora and fauna species including all three of South Africa’s crane species—including South Africa’s National Bird, the Blue Crane, and South Africa’s Critically Endangered Wattled Crane. Greater Lakenvlei also provides crucial ecosystem services which support human livelihoods; including the ability to purify water and trap nitrates, regulate stream flow, maintain biodiversity, flood attenuation, and to prevent erosion due to good vegetation cover.

The Greater Lakenvlei Wetland has historically been highly threatened by a number of human activities including mining applications, which if granted have the ability to irreversibly destroy the wetland system. As such, the declaration is crucial as it will ensure not only the protection of Greater Lakenvlei Wetland itself but subsequently the preservation of habitat required to support critically endangered flora and fauna species, ensure the continued supply of ecosystem services to the region.

This momentous achievement has been made possible through the close collaboration efforts of the Mpumulanga Tourism and parks Agency and their NGO partners, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, International Crane Foundation Partnership and Birdlife South Africa. Further information on the declaration can be found here.

Images courtesy of Mervyn Lotter (Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Agency)

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