Protecting Elandsberg hailed as ‘significant’ environmental movement for South Africa
The recent declaration of the Protected Environment of Ellandsberg in KwaZulu-Natal is an important step in efforts to secure South Africa’s most important water source areas.
The New Protected Environment of Elandsberg (PE), which was released on May 13, provides official protection to an area of 25,000 hectares between the cities of Paulpietersburg and Utrecht in the district municipalities of Amajuba and Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal.
A protected environment is a step below a national or provincial nature reserve and enjoys formal protection with major conservation gains.
Significantly, the new Elandsberg PE sits in the watershed between the primary watersheds of Thukela and Phongolo, two important river systems that have a large number of downstream users, including major irrigation systems, centers urban and rural users, all of whom depend on the sustained flow of clean water.
“It is important to note that the establishment of protected environments aims to ensure the long-term sustainable management of the land without removing anyone from the land and to allow the continuation of socially and ecologically compatible activities – a victory for the people and nature.”
Morné du Plessis, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund South Africa
Among the activities that will now be encouraged and supported by this declaration are sustainable rangeland management practices, such as proper storage of livestock and proper fire management. In addition, the declaration will prevent incompatible land use practices in this sensitive environment.
The new MOU also contributes significantly to securing the land necessary to achieve conservation objectives within KZN by protecting vulnerable and threatened vegetation types as well as listed flora and fauna (including three species of cranes and the largest breeding colony of the bald ibis in the south). Its hilly landscapes are an interesting mix of meadows, forests, wetlands and riparian areas, and its many cultural and historical sites also offer tourism potential.
Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of the World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa, said the achievement has helped put more than 65,000 ha in a critical water source area under protection, including land belonging to the community.
“It is important to note that the establishment of protected environments is aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainable management of land without removing anyone from the land and allowing socially and ecologically compatible activities to continue – a victory for people and nature, ”he said.