How does ecological infrastructure feature in the Palmiet River Valley?
The Palmiet River has been included as a proof of concept project in uMngeni Ecological Infrastructure Partnership (UEIP), along with the upper Mooi River, the Upper Mkomazi River catchment, and the catchment of uMngeni River itself.
The all-important rehabilitation and maintenance of Ecological Infrastructure has yet to be adopted by the authorities or appreciated by the communities, in an integrated, meaningful, significant, sustainable or measurable way; while the loss of Ecological Infrastructure has continued unabated between 2012 and 2019.
In ‘developed’ areas, the rehabilitation and maintenance of the remaining open spaces, roadside verges, parks, and wetlands is vital to improve water quality, and reduce the severe environmental impacts caused by high flow (after rain); and the decreased low-flow (during dry spells), by reestablishing the naturally occurring goods and services.
This is not enough, since the Palmiet River Valley, like many other areas, was planned and developed with little if any regard for the natural environment.
Bringing outside resources to deal with localized areas is questionable and unsustainable. It does not leave a local legacy of human capital with a vested interest, or a legacy of sustainable ecological infrastructure.
Poor storm-water management leading to erosion, river bed scouring and banks collapsing.
The built Infrastructure needs to be revisited and retro-engineered throughout the Palmiet River Valley. Buildings, access, drainage, water delivery and waste disposal systems: to stop, and undo the ongoing damage; which is the direct result of outdated development, design, construction, and maintenance practices.
There are long term benefits in investing funding and resources in high impact areas, to prevent erosion, riverbed scouring, riverbanks collapsing, pollution, habitat and biodiversity loss, flooding. Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) need to be introduced, not just in new developments, but by retro engineering artificial ecological infrastructure in the already built up areas.
The solution lies in focusing on environmental issues, economic and social benefits follow; rather than the negative consequences of focusing on economic and social benefits, with inadequate regard for the environmental consequences.
There are huge opportunities and benefits to be realised in terms of career creation (not just jobs), along with saving the human and financial cost of flood damage, disasters management.
Some pilot areas have been proposed (by Lee D’eathe PRW), to rapidly realise all the benefits above, including 1. The Wyebank Municipal Waste Disposal site, and, 2, The Kingfisher sub-catchment; which have been included in the Palmiet River Rehabilitation Contract 1N36478.
There are huge opportunities and benefits in terms of training, career creation, along with reduced cost of flooding, infrastructure damage disaster management;
Ecological infrastructure refers to naturally functioning ecosystems that deliver valuable services to people, such as water and climate regulation, soil formation and disaster risk reduction. It is the nature-based equivalent of built or hard infrastructure; and can be just as important for providing services and underpinning socioeconomic development. Ecological infrastructure does this by providing cost effective, long-term solutions to service delivery that can supplement, and sometimes even substitute, built infrastructure solutions. Ecological infrastructure includes healthy mountain catchments, rivers, wetlands, coastal dunes, and nodes and corridors of natural habitat, which together form a network of interconnected structural elements in the landscape.
Definition of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS)
Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) are a natural approach to managing drainage in and around properties and other developments. SuDS work by slowing and holding back the water that runs off from a site, allowing natural processes to break down pollutants.
(PDF) The South African Guidelines for Sustainable Drainage Systems by N Armitage – 2013
Stormwater management in the urban areas of South Africa has and continues to predominantly focus on collecting runoff and channeling it to the nearest watercourse. This means that stormwater drainage currently prioritises quantity (flow) management with little or no emphasis on the preservation of the environment