Ecological infrastructure partnership aims to deliver benefits to many

29 November 2013

Ecological Infrastructure Partnership dialogue

On 20 November 2013 seventeen organisations came together, for the first time, to commit themselves to the uMngeni Ecological Infrastructure Partnership (UEIP) at an event organised by SANBI’s Grasslands Programme. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding was part of the national dialogue on “Ecological Infrastructure and Water Security”. The half-day event was a cross-disciplinary dialogue allowing valuable discussions among government, municipal managers, engineers, economic development, non-governmental organisations and business chambers. The dialogue, which was attended by more than 100 people, took place at uMngeni River Estuary Green Hub in Durban.

After signing the MoU, three pilot projects were launched that contribute to the shared vision of UEIP, namely the Palmiet River Rehabilitation Project, Bayne’ Spruit Rehabilitation Project, and Save the Midmar Dam Project. Through these pilot projects, ecological infrastructure will be restored, maintained and managed to deliver the services and a suite of additional benefits such as job creation, improved agricultural productivity, improved landscape, securing cultural benefits, reduced flood damage and increased adaptive capacity to climate change impacts, all of which increase the return on investment.

UMgungundlovu Municipality Municipal Manager Sibusiso Khuzwayo said, “we need to do more about maintenance [of built and ecological infrastructure] in order to ensure that the services we provide are dependable" and investing in ecological infrastructure is an important part of that. This requires taking a longer term view, to address the broader picture of water security. This is the challenge “because we're under pressure to deliver now”, said Khuzwayo who went on “you don’t need to be an engineer or environmentalist to benefit from ecological infrastructure; it is natural and inclusive - which is something we need in the municipality”.

“We need to understand municipalities and understand where they come from, speak their lingo and understand their priorities” said Khuzwayo. “The concept of ecological infrastructure helps us do this – we’re speaking about jobs and service delivery.”

Kristal Maze, SANBI Chief Director of Biodiversity Planning and Policy Advice said, “We’re not isolating issues municipalities are concerned about. This has been one of the big successes for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), adding “through ecological infrastructure we feel we have been able to bridge the communication of the benefits of nature, and we’re using site demonstrations of how investing in ecological infrastructure delivers benefits.”

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