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Sectors join hands with solutions

The private and public sector have joined hands to find both short-term sustainable solutions to the problems threatening the Kamfers Dam’s flamingos, as well as long-term solutions to restore water and sewage infrastructure for sustainable inflow of effluent to Kamfers Dam.

According to a press release issued by Ekapa Mining last week these solutions include the construction of two crèche ponds of 100 m x 10 m each on the dry banks of the Kamfers Dam.

These small ponds shows less evaporation than a larger body of water and will ensure a controlled process to provide the water necessary to temporarily sustain the 5 000 chicks until the birds are ready to fledge or until a long-term solution has been implemented.

A feeding programme supported by donations of four tons of food will be implemented in conjuction with the establishment of the ponds.

The welfare and health of the chicks will be continuously moni­tored by the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation (DENC), BirdLife South Africa, Saam Staan Kimberley, Kimberley SPCA and a network of local veterinarians.

An action plan for the repa­triation of the previously rescued chicks was drafted and presented to the role players during a meeting held in Kimberley.

The surviving chicks will be returned in batches of 200 to the Kimberley SPCA, where they will be placed in specifically designed holding pens to acclimatise before being released at the Kamfers Dam, once a sustainable water level has been established and it has been determined that the chicks are healthy and disease free.

The release of the flamingo chicks will be done under the expert guidance of BirdLife South Africa, the DENC, the owners of the property, and other parties.

To prevent a reoccurrence and ensure a sustainable future for the lesser flamingo population at the Kamfers Dam, Ekapa Mining and the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality have joined forces to implement a comprehensive infrastructure restoration programme for the municipality’s Homevale Waste Water Treatment Plant (HWWTP).

According to Ekapa Mining, these efforts are already starting to pay dividends, as the combined team managed to repair some of the gravity pipe infrastructure, increasing the inflow to the HWWTP from 6 megalitres to 15 megalitres.

Indications are that work being executed by the municipality and an independent contractor on the pressure line from the pumping stations should increase the volume with another 20 megalitres.

It is anticipated that this project will be completed at the end of April.

Furthermore, under approval from the DENC and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), Ekapa Mining excavated a 400 m bypass channel around the reed beds to improve the direct inflow of sewage volume into the dam.

The effect of this immediately stabilised the level of the Kamfers Dam, as it negated the loss of water that was being absorbed by the phragmites reeds.

On Monday, 11 March, excellent general rainfall of approximately 120 mm in the Kamfers Dam area further alleviated the situation.

The dedicated efforts by various parties, in conjunction with the excellent rainfall, resulted in the crisis being averted for this breeding season. The water level can sustain the population and algae is regenerating as a sustainable food source.

The ecosystem is busy stabilising.

The crèche ponds are in operation and mature birds are using it as a good water and food source.

The extensive continuous scientific monitoring of the dam provided by BirdLife South Africa and Ekapa Mining that played an invaluable part in understanding the many threats around the dry breeding season and provided for effective mitigation actions will now be tapered down as the dam returns to its natural balanced environmental status.

According to the release by Ekapa Mining a possible partner with a proven track record that can support the establishment of maintenance and operations strategies and practices was identified to ensure the integrity and reliability of the waste water processing plant.

Advanced discussions are currently underway to develop best practices for the HWWTP for long-term reliability and efficiency.

The commitment and willingness of all parties to work together towards achieving common goals is laying the foundation to ensure a continuous supply of 37 megalitres of sewage to the HWWTP, which will thus sustain the flamingo population at the Kamfers Dam.

Participating partners are looking forward to the release of about 800 rescued chicks once the rehabilita­tion is completed at an appropriate time anticipated to be sooner rather than later.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Nomvula Mokonyane, and the MEC of the DENC, Pauline Williams, thanked all the partners for the efforts in managing this complex situation in the shortest space of time possible and further recognises the short, medium and long-term solutions to strategically manage this challenge faced by the Kamfers Dam, which is considered an iconic breeding site for flamingos and thus contributes to the diversity of the tourism offerings in the greater Sol Plaatje Municipal area in the Kimberley Region.

  • This is a continuation of a collaborative effort in which Staan Saam Kimberley and the Kimberley SPCA rescued approximately 1 900 abandoned flamingo chicks and relocated them to accredited bird rehabilitation centres in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

A dramatic shortage of effluent flowing into the Kamfers Dam left the flamingo chicks stranded in the summer heat, abandoned by the parent birds after the nest turrets were left high and dry.

After Kimberley’s raw sewage is treated to reach compliance levels, the water flows into the Kamfers Dam where the internationally acclaimed and highly successful flamingo breeding island is situated. However, challenges experienced at the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality’s sewage pumping stations and pipelines contributed to the shortage of water flowing into the dam, necessitating the rescue efforts.

Good rainfall in the catchment area early in February and dedicated efforts by the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality, in conjunction with Ekapa Mining, to repair infrastructure to increase volumes of sewage to the HWWTP, resulted in the dam level temporarily stabilising and sustaining the adult flamingos and their 5 000 chicks.

Through continuous monitoring of the situation by ornithologists from BirdLife South Africa, it was determined in late March that the water level and food supply in the dam was rapidly decreasing due to high levels of evaporation and insufficient inflow of water.

There was concern that this could result in another abandonment in the near future. Because of this pro-active detection, a short-term solution was developed by the multi-party team.

These efforts are already starting to pay dividends, as the combined team managed to repair some of the gravity pipe infrastructure, increasing the inflow to the HWWTP from 6 megalitres to 15 megalitres. – Ekapa Mining

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