Special Edition on Working for Wetlands

Jul 15, 2009

In anticipation of World Wetlands Day on Saturday 02 February 2008, The Bateleurs bring you a special edition on our partnership with Working for Wetlands in 2007.  We begin this newsletter with the spectacular photograph above, taken by Bateleur pilot Anthony Allen, on his flight over the Berg River Valley.

On the 26th June 2007 The Bateleurs received a message from Umesh Bahadur  of Working for Wetlands which read:

“For the 2007-2008 business year, the programme was assisted in one of its planning phases by flying, made possible by the kind assistance of The Bateleurs.  In the light of the new planning that is under way, the Working for Wetlands Programme hereby approaches The Bateleurs to assist in the areal reconnaissance of the catchments that need assessing by the programme consultants and specialists.  It is envisaged that there needs to be in the region of 20 flights and these will need to be on flight paths determined by the priorities that the programme has identified country-wide.  The flying needs to happen in July-August 2007.”

Whew! Quite some request … but we did seventeen of the 20 areas they asked for, flying fifteen separate flights in all, thanks to the amazing dedication and generosity of ten of our pilots – four of whom flew more than one flight.

Rehana Dada, who deals with communications for Working for Wetlands, has put together this special edition for us. We thank Rehana, and John Dini and Umesh Bahadur, and especially Andrew Barnes of Land Resources International (LRI) who co-ordinated the entire exercise for Working for Wetlands, for the wonderful working relationship we enjoyed while these flights were being arranged and flown.

Although not expecting to fly the Free State we were happy to receive a request to fly “the C81F quaternary catchment which includes Phuthaditjaba and some surrounding areas of Lesotho.”  For Bateleurs pilot and civil engineer, Dries Lategan, who had flown a mission for Working for Wetlands with Trevor Pike in 2006, this was no problem. He emailed back:  “… Yes, I can surely help in this area.  After all, it is my back yard.  I have worked here for 24 years.  I’m sure one of these mornings can work, this is close to home.”

What a pleasure for us – and for Working for Wetlands, who gain so much more from the flight by having added local knowledge contributed by a pilot who lives in the area.  This, incidentally, is a dream of ours.  The Bateleurs would love to have pilot members in all nine South African provinces who could say, as Dries did – ‘Yes I can help.  After all, this is my back yard’.

Jay van Deventer flew Brad Graves from LRI on the second of the North West missions, during which they covered the wetland habitat associated with the Mooi River within the C23F, C23G and C23H quartenary catchments – approximately 238,799.57 hectares.   In total, 47 sites with potential for rehabilitation were identified within wetlands in the Mooi River catchment area, together with numerous other sites beyond the catchment.  Alien plant infestation was also noticeable in the catchment.  Jay’s report to us included the following comment:

“As the pilot on this mission I found the extent of illegal sand and peat mining very disturbing. Our economic boom has resulted in some very unfortunate consequences.  Wetlands, being sedimentary plains, are full of fine sand which the building boom needed. It seems that almost every farmer with a wetland on his property has acquired an earthmoving machine, cut canals through the wetland, drained the wetland and started a (frequently illegal) sand mine.  In areas that are difficult or expensive to drain we also saw a number of illegal peat mining operations.  Both peat and sand mining completely destroy the wetland system and the sight of dirty barges with back actors eating their way through these wetlands was very sad.  I sincerely hope the relevant government departments use their powers and the insight provided by Working for Wetlands, via The Bateleurs, to stop this ugly exploitation.”

Since Rehana prepared this newsletter Bateleur pilot and aerial photographer Anthony Allen has flown the final mission for
the Working for Wetlands/Bateleurs 2007 project, accompanied by  Wetland Specialist Nancy Job and Jennifer Gouza of Working for Wetlands.  The flight followed a route from Stellenbosch towards the town of Franschoek, over Jonkershoek Valley and the Groot Drakenstein mountains, before reaching Assegaaiboschkloof and the site of the new Berg River dam.  Construction of the dam was completed in 2007 and the dam was full at the time of the flight.  Most of the flight remained within the montane catchment area (G10A).

There is no doubt that all these flights were thoroughly enjoyed by both pilots and passengers (except for those few who turned green) and we certainly appreciate the professional reports we received from all the researchers involved.  Just loved the quip from Andrew Barnes:  “We would have liked to survey a couple of sites around Boksburg but unfortunately somebody put an international airport in the way.”

With thanks to the entire team at Working for Wetlands who put these reports together for us, here now is our Special Edition on Working for Wetlands:

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