Suikerbosrand reserve in terminal water crisis

Ina Cilliers MPL

DA Gauteng spokesperson for Agriculture:

The Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve in the south of Gauteng closed its doors to the public on 26 January 2015, due to terminal water supply issues. It is recognised as one of Gauteng’s premier ecotourism destinations.

This emerged during the portfolio committee meeting this morning, when the Director of Nature Conservation told members that the reserve needs to be closed until the completion of the northern water line in order to avoid an ecological disaster.

However, it also emerged that this water line is already 5 years overdue.

Gauteng Infrastructure Development MEC, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, apologised for the internal bungling and poor project management and the potentially catastrophic delays, but had no clear answers about over expenditure to date, nor could she guarantee the project’s completion date.

The reserve’s only alternative water sources are from its 40-year-old southern line, which is in a state of collapse, and borehole water, which is unsafe to drink and insufficient pressure for fire-fighting purposes.

In the meantime, agriculture department officials are rushing to secure agreements with the army, disaster management and local fire departments in an attempt to protect the reserve during the approaching fire season.

The 11 595 hectare reserve comprises open grassland, wooded gorge, acacia woodland, marshland, fynbos and rare Bankenveld grassland. Grassland biomes are now recognised as the most threatened biome on the planet, not just within Africa.

Without decisive leadership and active intervention, the economic and environmental impact of the loss of this nature reserve will reverberate throughout the province for years to come.

The DA will continue to monitor the situation and maintain pressure on the MEC Mayathula-Khoza to ensure that the new pipeline is fully functional as soon as possible.