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Media Release: Golden Gate National Park playing a pivotal role in the battle for water preservation

01 February 2005

THE importance of water preservation will once again come under the spotlight tomorrow (February 2) as World Wetlands Day is celebrated by countries globally.

Closer to home, within South African National Parks (SANParks), the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the eastern Free State was the focus of these world-wide celebrations during a two-day media tour that started in the park earlier today. The media were en-route to The Swamp in Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal where more celebrations will be held.

During the visit to Golden Gate National Park, journalists were taken to the Oribi Basin a wetland area inside the park that is currently undergoing rehabilitation. The importance of the wetland’s rehabilitation cannot be over-emphasised. This is because Golden Gate Highlands National Park sits on the watershed between the Garieb (Orange) River and Vaal River systems. The park also contributes to the provision of quality potable water to lower laying densely populated areas such as Gauteng.

“As a conservation body, SANParks is committed to conserve and where necessary restore and rehabilitate the wetlands within the parks to ensure optimum functioning of the wetlands. Where areas outside the park’s boundary have an impact on the wetland, these areas will also be considered for rehabilitation,” says Paul Daphne, SANParks Executive Director of Parks.

He adds that SANParks has a holistic catchment approach to ultimately deal with all wetlands impacting within national parks.

Through the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), is funding a programme for wetland rehabilitation activities in all national parks. This funding is provided over a three-year cycle.

A major significant part of the project is that it is also a public works programme specifically aimed to provide job opportunities for the under privileged people. Under the programme, at least 60% of the workers have to be women, 20% youth and 2% should be people with disabilities. Training and skills development are also a priority and each worker must get a minimum of 24 days per annum training.

A total of R6, 7 million has been approved for further wetland rehabilitation over the three years ending March 2007. The rehabilitation work will be carried out at the Agulhas, Golden Gate and Kruger National Parks.

Currently, the wetlands rehabilitation programme provides jobs for 103 people from communities adjacent to the parks. The work they undertake includes the removing of old dam walls, plugging drainage farrows, stabilisation of dongas and restoring water ways by installing culverts on roads.

Most national parks have wetlands within their boundaries and although these wetlands are relatively pristine and conserved, external factors such as flooding and infrastructures such as roads, are impacting on the wetlands.

Specifics on the Golden Gate Project

  • The Golden Gate Highlands National Park falls within the Thabo Mofutsanyane Poverty node. The existing wetland team consists of 23 workers and are all local people from a previously disadvantaged background.
  • The project aims to construct 280 m3 of Gabions to rehabilitate a donga in the Oribi Basin which is at the origin of the Little Caledon River. This wetland's main disturbance came from the run-off water from a road adjacent to the wetland. The soil is also very dispersive and therefore very erodable. 

Issued by:  Lulama Luti: Manager: Media & PR
                   South African National Parks
                   Tel: (012) 426-5203 or 082-905-4645

Enquiries:  Wanda Mkutshulwa: Head Communications
                   South African National Parks
                   Tel: (012) 426-5201 or 082-908-2692

You might also wish to check out the Golden Gate Fact Sheet (PDF)....

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