Wetlands saved and upgraded during road upgrade

Construction was put on hold when we came into contact with a wetlands forest along the Kwambonambi intersection on the N2 highway, north of Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal.

As we progressed with our upgrade, we started an environmental impact assessment before construction. The assessment revealed that the upgrading would disturb a nearby wetland.

We approached the Department of Environmental Affairs who granted us authorisation for the upgrade, but it was on condition that the wetlands, including an indigenous swamp forest would be rehabilitated.

According to a report by Michelle Nel on the website wetland.org, there are two methods of rehabilitation – either stabilising the problem area and maintaining the present condition of the wetland, or trying to reclaim the wetland area that has been lost.

It is vital to make informed decisions when undertaking wetland rehabilitation and if you are ever in doubt, get specialist advice, for example, from the Mondi Wetlands Project or Working for Wetlands.

Some simple methods of rehabilitating wetlands include closing drains, fencing off sensitive areas to keep grazers out, and placing plugs in gullys.

All these methods will help wetland plants re-establish themselves and it is the plants that hold the magic key to the functioning of wetlands.

Wetlands and riverbank plants are vital for preventing erosion; they play a crucial role in the purification of water, reduce the severity of floods and regulate water especially during droughts. When the plants go, these valuable functions disappear.

Knowing the importance of wetlands, we got a botanist to survey the plants in the swamp forest to identify which ones to rescue.

The swamp forest patch was then removed to make way for the construction of the interchange ramp and a number of indigenous trees were removed.

Rehabilitation involved replacing alien vegetation with indigenous species.