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Flamingos, dam in spotlight


Plans underway to build a new island on a small portion of Kamfers Dam to 'house' a new breed of flamingos

A new island for city birds ... but what is wrong with the old one? Picture: Mark Anderson

WHILE a new flamingo breeding island could be on the cards for Kamfers Dam, questions have been asked why the old one was not repaired.

Local bird enthusiast, Brian Culver, yesterday described the breeding island as “a huge success before it became one of the biggest failures”.

The S-shaped breeding island was built by Ekapa Mining in 2006 in an attempt to reverse the lesser flamingo’s negative population trend at the time.

A massive success story, the man-made island resulted in an estimated 24 000 lesser flamingo and 100 greater flamingo chicks hatching on the breeding ground between 2007 and 2011.

However, as a result of the flooding of Kamfers Dam, which started in 2009, the island was totally submerged by January 2011.

Despite suggestions that the clay on the calcrete, which was washed away, be replaced and the island revamped, this was never done. “This was essentially because of petty politics as the current land owner did not succumb to pressure to have Kamfers Dam declared a conservancy,” Culver stated yesterday.

It is believed that plans are now under way to build the new island on the small portion of Kamfers Dam which is owned by the municipality.

However, concern has been expressed about the locality of this proposed island.

“If it is built on municipal-owned land, there will not be enough water around the island to protect the birds from predators, including humans, as well as jackals and dogs. If it is decided to build a moat, will this be sufficiently wide enough to prevent people from throwing stones at the birds? Members of the public will also have access to the area if it is municipal-owned land,” Culver pointed out.

“One also wonders if they are planning to build an observation point and whether a fence will be built around the moat.”

Culver also questioned whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) would be undertaken and whether members of the public would be given an opportunity to give their input.

The CEO of Birdlife South Africa, Mark Anderson, pointed out yesterday that Kamfers Dam was one of only four places in the world where lesser flamingos have recently bred.

“Unfortunately, excessive inflow of water from the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Works flooded the island. The water inflow subsequently decreased and the island resurfaced, but it was damaged and it needs repair,” said Anderson.

He added that it would be a massive operation to repair the island, as a causeway/road would have to be built to the island. “The cost could amount to more than half a million rand; possibly considerably more.”

Anderson stated further that a concern expressed by some potential sponsors/donors was that Kamfers Dam was not formally protected. “They are hence resistant to commit funding to the project.

“An alternative proposal would be to build another island on the southern side of the dam, on Sol Plaatje Municipality property. This would also possibly allow easier access for viewing by birdwatchers and tourists.”

Anderson added, however, that no discussions had yet been held with donors, the municipality, provincial government, or other role-players.

“If the project (to build another island) was planned, an EIA would also need to be conducted. The project may, if it materialises, only take place in a number of years’ time. It is currently only a distant plan which, if successful, would contribute to the conservation of lesser flamingos.”

Anderson said that it should also be pointed out that the flamingos were currently building nests on the dam’s shoreline.

“This they have done on many occasions in the past 30 years, and they have always been unsuccessful. It is likely that human disturbance resulted in previous breeding failures. It is unfortunate that photographers approach the flamingos too closely, including when they are breeding, and this disturbance may be one of the reasons for the aborted breeding attempts. While it is hoped that the flamingo breeding attempt will be successful, this is not likely”.

Meanwhile, concern has also been expressed about future water levels at Kamfers Dam after it came to light that Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV), which uses water from the dam for its mines, was reported to be diverting water flowing into Kamfers Dam, via trenches as well as two pipelines, into a massive underground culvert.

Gogga Pump Station, which is supposed to feed sewage water from Galeshewe into Kamfers Dam, has been broken for more than two years already and the water is still flowing into the veld, under the Barkly Road bridge, near Platfontein.

KEM-JV spokesperson, Gert Klopper, explained yesterday that KEM-JV had a water licence to use the waste water from the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Works (HWWTW) and Kamfers Dam, which was its overflow.

“The water is pumped to Superstone, as well as the Combined Treatment Plant (CTP) and the Kimberley Golf Club,” Klopper said, adding that the mineralisation of the wastewater assisted in the processes of the plant.

“In terms of the permit, we need to maintain the infrastructure involved in the extraction of the water. Some of the equipment needed to be repaired.”

According to Klopper, it was decided to construct a sump, which will be mostly subterranean, to enable gravity feed as well as to limit visual impact.

“The sump will consist of three tanks and the total volume of water held in this sump will be in line with current water licence allowance and no additional volumes will be abstracted.”

Klopper dispelled fears that the quantity of water pumped from Kamfers Dam to KEM-JV would increase, stating that this was “not foreseen”.

“The quantity of water that can be withdrawn by KEM for use in mineral processing is regulated by the Water Licence granted by the Department of Water Affairs. The maximum withdrawal quantity stipulated in this licence is based on the availability of water after taking into account the sustainable use of this water source by the bigger Kimberley, as well as minimum water levels to sustain bird and animal life at Kamfers Dam.”

He added that the licence was subject to certain conditions, such as a minimum water level in Kamfers Dam, that had to be maintained.

Responding to queries whether recent upgrades at the CTP necessitated additional water for the mine, Klopper pointed out that the recent work at the CTP “involved the implementation of proprietary technology (of which the details are not in the public domain) to increase treatment efficiency and improve the effectiveness of water use and recycling”.

“No increase of water use due to this technological upgrade is therefore foreseen as it will improve the water consumption. The total water withdrawal from Kamfers Dam remains to be governed by the Water Licence.”

Klopper went on to explain that one of the benefits of using wastewater (either from Kamfers Dam or from the HWWTW) was its higher conductivity, which required the addition of less flocculant and therefore aided both efficient recovery of diamonds and of the recycling of water used.

“The changes made at the CTP make no difference to this benefit. The technological upgrade to the CTP was made for more efficient production and recycling of water so that less raw water is used.”

Klopper added that the loss of water into the veld from Gogga Pump Station was a concern, “but we are confident that the municipality, to whom the facility belongs, have plans in place to manage this effectively”.

“The previous low levels at Kamfers Dam was unrelated to mining activity and was due to drought condition and the Gogga Pump Station issues which have recently been rectified.”