The three projects of the UEIP were conceptualised at the inception of the partnership and led by local government partners with implementation supported by various partners. The intention was for the project to provide “proof of concept” on how the partnership model of coordinating efforts across stakeholders can yield positive results for the environment and communities.
Save Midmar Project
This was identified as one of the three UEIP demonstration projects, initially led by the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (UMDM) with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) coordinating activities to restore the ecological infrastructure within key areas around the Midmar Dam. Midmar Dam supplies water to most of the population in the catchment, including the major cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban. It is also known for hosting the most popular recreational event in the region, the Midmar Mile. The quality of water in the dam has declined significantly due to contamination from sewerage and industrial waste, as well as nutrient inputs from agricultural activities upstream of the dam. The project focuses on repairing and re-constructing wastewater infrastructure, wetland rehabilitation, water quality monitoring through citizen science, as well as community education and outreach.
This project has been funded by various UEIP partners, including UMDM, Umgeni Water, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) and SANBI. SANBI, through funding from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) under the Biodiversity and Land-Use (BLU) Project, has facilitated rehabilitation and restoration of the Mthinzima Wetland upstream of Midmar Dam. This work was undertaken between 2020 and 2022 and built on the work initiated by DFFE’s Working for Wetlands and involved altering the hydrology of the system such that flows through the wetland are re-distributed across the surface of the wetland rather than being confined to the channel. This has been achieved by incorporating site specific interventions such as earthworks to divert a proportion of the base flows out of the existing channel and manages flows re-entering the channel from the adjacent areas. This is also intended to improve re-instate wetland habitat and wetland function.
SANBI, under the GEF funded Ecological Infrastructure for Water Security (EI4WS) Project ,is employing 13 Enviro-Champs as part of the Amanzi Ethu Nobuntu programme, to conduct door to door education, fix domestic water leaks, monitor and report sewage spillages, conduct biomonitoring and wetland monitoring using citizen science tools. The Enviro-Champs have all completed Level 2 Environment Practices Training conducted by WESSA.
Baynespruit Rehabilitation Project
This is the second demonstration project of the UEIP, led by the Msunduzi Local Municipality as one of the partners. It focuses on rehabilitating the Baynespruit River, a tributary of the Msunduzi River. The Msunduzi River is the main tributary of uMngeni River running through the city of Pietermaritzburg and receiving water from the Baynespruit River. The water quality of the Baynespruit River is poor due to pollution from illegal industrial waste discharge, solid waste, as well as poor stormwater and sanitation infrastructure.
Through funding from the GEF under the BLU Project, SANBI has partnered with DUCT to support the work being undertaken on the Baynespruit River. The work is focused in the Northdale to Sobantu region and involves alien invasive plant removal, land rehabilitation, as well as citizen science monitoring and river clean-ups by schools in the area The alien clearing portion aims to enhance river health, water quality and to improve the ecological functioning and the quality of life for residents. Ultimately, farmers should be able to irrigate their crops from water from the river. Monitoring and evaluating the impacts of these interventions is on-going.
Palmiet Rehabilitation Project
The Palmiet Rehabilitation Project is led by eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality with assistance from researchers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The project aims to address the deterioration of the water quality and quantity in the Palmiet River. The focus of the project is on improved governance through developing a good relationship with catchment stakeholders and communities to understand the socio-economic and political dynamics, particularly in the informal settlements around the Palmiet River. Challenges on this part of the catchment include solid waste management in the informal settlements, sewer leaks and illegal industrial effluent discharge.
The following are key project milestones since its implementation:
- Shared governance platform of the Palmiet Catchment Rehabilitation Project with local community from Quarry Road informal settlement through quarterly Committee Of Inspection meetings.
- Improvement in working relations between municipality and the community
- The appointment of the Service Provider (GroundTruth) to implement the Integrated Infrastructure Programme of South Africa (IIPSA) project as part of the Western Aqueduct Programme.
- Initially, a group of 10 Enviro Champs were working on environmental education initiatives with the community and conducting citizen science biomonitoring.
- In the second phase of the project, funding from SANBI’s EI4WS Project is supporting the employment of 5 enviro-champs and 5 graduates.
- There has been enhanced service delivery in the catchment through working closely with Durban Solid Waste, Durban Green Corridor and Iqhaza Lethu program from eThekwini Human Settlements in piloting waste management plan for Quarry Road West Informal Settlement