Hooo-Hooo Volume 10, Nr 1 - Page 24

WildLife Group of the SAVA system. Umfolozi Sugar Cooperative (UCOSP) and two farmers launched an application in the High Court in August 2015 to compel iSimangaliso to breach the uMfolozi river mouth to the sea. The application was launched on an urgent basis to enable the draining of floodwaters from less than 94ha or 1% of the 9427ha of land under sugarcane on the uMfolozi floodplain. This matter has been set down for May 2016. An interim court settlement, which remains in place until May 2016 when the matter will be heard, requires iSimangaliso to breach the mouth at a point of its choosing when the Msunduze water levels reach 1.2gmsl at Cotcane. A second urgent application was launched by UCOSP and the two farmers in December 2015 to compel iSimangaliso to breach. iSimangaliso stayed the breach. This was the last time water flowed from the uMfolozi River into Lake St Lucia. The application was postponed sine die. A date has not been given for this hearing. In the spirit of collaboration, iSimangaliso has been in discussion with UCOSP since 2008, when iSimangaliso began the review of the management strategy for the Estuary. Commitments to improve their flood protection by UCOSP have yet to be fulfilled. We are extremely concerned about the possible adverse ecological impacts to Lake St Lucia from the breaching of the uMfolozi River to the sea, as well as the possible knock-on effects on the livelihoods of many people, particularly in light of the poor winter rain that has been forecast. 2015 was recorded as the lowest rainfall year since 1920. iSimangaliso’s Lake St Lucia Estuary is one-of-a-kind. It is the world’s oldest protected estuary and Africa’s largest estuarine system, as well as the focal point of the UNESCO World Heritage Listing. It has been a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance since 1986 – not only of global ecological significance, but also of regional and local economic importance. More than 50% of all water birds in KwaZulu-Natal feed, roost and nest in this estuary. Of the 155 fish species that have been recorded in the Lake St Lucia estuarine system, 71 species use St Lucia as a nursery area and at least 24 of these are important in marine line fisheries. Harvests of raw materials, particularly estuarine sedges, is estimated to be worth around R7,5 million a year. The contribution of the estuarine floodplain 24