The Verlorenvlei estuary lies between the towns of Redelinghuys to the east and Elands Bay to the west. Not only does its serene beauty attract visitors, but it also underscores the ecological importance of the estuary as a haven for diverse flora and fauna.
This wonderful ecosystem hosts great biodiversity. It was declared a Ramsar Site on 28 June 1991 under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, and is one of the 29 Ramsar sites in South Africa.
As set by BirdLife South Africa as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Areasupporting abundant and rich birdlife, especially waterfowl, a variety of endangered mammals, and many native fish.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: The endangered wetlands of southern Africa need protection
The Verlorenvlei estuary boasts rich biodiversity and offers a variety of tourism, recreational, health, educational and other social benefits that directly enhance local livelihoods. They provide essential nursery areas for the sustenance and productivity of estuarine fish populations, and thus play a vital role in enhancing local and broader marine economies.
Actively contributes to climate change mitigation by effectively sequestering and storing carbon from the atmosphere.
The problem is that Verlorenvlei faces Great and increasing pressure From significant flow reduction (including through the construction of illegal dams and excessive extraction of water from the Verlorenvlei watershed), mass agricultural transformation of the functional area of \u200b\u200bestuaries, and increasing pollution. The system is also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, exacerbating its persistence in an already water-stressed region.
Results? Verlorenvlei literally dries up. These effects reduce Verlorenvlei’s ability to provide key services such as nutrient cycling and nursery habitat. The mouth of the estuary has not been breached for years, and its recreational and tourism value is under threat. Drought is rapidly eroding the biodiversity of this unique site.
For several years, Verlorenvlei had no fish, due to having no connection to the sea, no connection to the wider catchments, and rapidly deteriorating water quality. The species diversity of waterfowl has also decreased dramatically from 39 species to just 22 species in the past four years.
This is a crisis, taking its toll on an isolated ecosystem far off the west coast of South Africa, hidden from view, and sadly ignored in terms of its importance.
A study is currently underway to determine the ecological reserve of the Verlorenvlei watershed (the amount of water needed to maintain ecological integrity), but there is some uncertainty about the completion of this process, and whether its recommendations will be sufficient to save the valley.
As if the above threats weren’t enough, Verlorenvlei faces a new threat. This time, a mining application that will greatly affect the watersheds on which the Vlei relies.
Bongani Minerals (Pty) Ltd, with the assistance of Greenmined Environmental (Pty) Ltd, has applied to the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy for the right to mine heavy metals such as tungsten and molybdenum on properties located in the protected Moutonshoek environment.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: The warning sounded from prospectors looking for the treasures of the last unspoiled strip along the Western Cape’s western coast.
Mutonchuk Protects the catchment of the Antunes River Vineyards, the main tributary of the Verlorenvlei system. This is in fact a renewed threat, as Bongani had previously applied several times – unsuccessfully – to mine the same area. The draft scoping report in terms of the EIA regulations is open for public comment through July 3, 2023.
in that commentsHowever, the Center for Biological Diversity Law noted that this application is extremely concerning for a number of reasons.
First, the mine is proposed within a protected environment, declared to preserve an important representative sample of threatened ecosystem species. Mining is prohibited in a protected environment.
However, in terms of recently modified Section 48 From the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, this may be allowed with the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment approval when certain factors (including the ecological integrity of the protected environment) are considered.
Mining in a protected environment undermines the international commitments that South Africa has undertaken by agreeing to Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
Specifically, South Africa has committed to increasing the area of its territory under effective conservation through the expansion of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures to 30% by 2030. Efforts should therefore be made to conserve and expand, not erode, protected area lands in South Africa.
In this case, mining is also completely against my goals Mutunchuk Protected Environment Management Planincluding the conservation of biodiversity.
Secondly, mining operations in Moutonshoek pose a significant threat to Verlorenvlei, as explicitly recognized in the draft scoping report. Mining requires water, and a lot of it, and this particular mine will depend on groundwater resources, the draft scoping report said. The depletion of groundwater resources, upon which Verlorenvlei depends, looms as a frustrating risk for the proposed mining activities.
In addition, the presence of a tailings dam connected to the mine raises significant concerns about possible groundwater contamination, endangering the delicate balance of the Verlorenvlei system and its valuable biodiversity.
Furthermore, the threat of sedimentation or pollution of the Vineyards Antunes, the primary tributary of the Verlorenvlei, increases the vulnerability of this ecosystem. Not to mention the effects on the community, who would be effectively expelled from their land to make way for the mine, and the ludicrous suggestion that the social, economic and biodiversity impacts might be plausibly mitigated.
Protect vulnerable ecosystems
our environmental legislation It emphasizes the importance and vulnerability of ecosystems such as wetlands, which require special attention in management and planning actions.
Moreover, it was published recently The White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in South Africa It reveals the troubling truth that estuaries and wetlands, despite being the most threatened ecosystem types, receive the least protection. Less than 2% of its total area is classified as “well protected”. Thus, South African laws and policies clearly state that wetlands and estuaries should be treated with special care.
However, despite this obvious legal protection, Verlorenvlei suffers death by a thousand proverbial cuts. illegal extraction of water. illegal damsAnd rampant agricultural expansion and now mining. How much more must this fragile ecosystem endure?
As it is, Verlorenvlei rapidly deteriorates beyond the point at which it may recover. However, its importance cannot be overstated. Its serene beauty, rich biodiversity, and vital ecological functions make it a precious gem that demands our protection.
Conserving Verlorenvlei is not only crucial to the well-being of local communities and the environment, but also to the collective responsibility we have in protecting nature’s wonders so that future generations can benefit as well. DM
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