As part of ICLEI’s LAB Wetlands SA Project, Eco-Pulse Consulting, a KZN-based private consulting firm, has partnered with Amathole District Municipality to support the district with wetland rehabilitation. The selected wetland sites were identified as being critical in supporting municipal service delivery.

The goal of the project is to contribute to enhanced wetland management by improving the spatial wetland inventory in selected areas, and building capacity within the municipality in such a way as to contribute towards development, with a focus on wetland management and rehabilitation.

Sharp-nosed frog, a frog species endemic to wetlands within the Amathole District.

The initial phase of this pioneering project is nearing completion and involved undertaking a regional exercise aimed at prioritising areas for mapping and rehabilitation planning. This assessment made use of available datasets to produce a number of thematic maps that reflect the opportunities for wetland rehabilitation to contribute towards wetland management objectives in the municipality. These maps helped to highlight catchments where wetland rehabilitation could contribute most meaningfully to conservation efforts, water quality enhancement, flood attenuation, sediment trapping and stream flow regulating services. They were also integrated into a composite map indicating initial priority areas for further investigation.

The results were shared with local stakeholders in mid-January 2018. These included representatives from the Provincial Environmental Department and the Municipality’s Environmental Management and Disaster Management Directorates. Given the dire water shortages experienced in recent years, water management was high on their agenda. The potential for wetlands to prevent erosion and trap sediment was a key focus, which led on to discussions regarding priority areas for further project activities.

It was agreed that wetlands located in the catchment feeding into the Xilinxa Dam would be a potential focal area. Although this was the highest ranking catchment, it has few intact wetlands remaining, due largely to historic agricultural practices and erosion in the catchment. According to news reports, levels of supply dams in this region sat as 0.6% for the Xilinxa Dam and 41% for the downstream Gcuwa Dam in August last year. This water shortage has had major implications for the municipality, with the Mnquma Municipality alone, spending an estimated R600 000 a day carting water to Butterworth, Centane and Ngqamakhwe during the peak of the drought.

A field trip is being planned for mid-February, when key stakeholders will visit the catchment above Xilinxa Dam and evaluate the potential for wetland rehabilitation in order to address some of the challenges in this region. Once confirmed, the project team will initiate the next phase of wetland mapping which will then feed into a site selection process where individual wetlands will be prioritised for rehabilitation action. Once a target wetland has been selected, the project team will develop a rehabilitation plan that can then be used as a basis for securing funding for initiating a rehabilitation project in the area.

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