Understanding the value of the Kwa-Thema extension 3 wetland in response to anthropogenic activities

Nagiah, Melisha
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South Africa has seen a significant loss and degradation of its urban wetlands, all in the name of development. The natural and strategic location of Wetlands, subject these natural systems to a host of extraction processes, leading to the ultimate destruction and demise of these Wetlands. The biggest threats to wetlands are people and their innate exploitative and destructive nature. Anthropogenic activities that lead to degradation and total loss of wetlands in South Africa are: drainage, mining activities, clearing of large tracts of land for infrastructural and agricultural practices and over- harvesting of wetland resources. The drastic alteration of a wetland system has severe and far reaching environmental, economic and social consequences. The value of a single wetland system is so unique and is yet, not stressed enough in legislation governing the protection and conservation of natural ecosystems. A typical example of an undervalued wetland is the case of the Kwa-Thema Ext 3 Wetland, which has been subjected to partial degradation as a result anthropogenic activities. The study concluded that activities such as over-grazing, extraction of natural vegetation, clearing large tracts of land for housing development and extensive farming practices (to name a few) have all contributed to the degradation and devaluing of the Kwa-Thema Ext 3 wetland. Interesting aspects of this study revealed that, whilst some individuals were aware of their prolonged and unsustainable use of the wetland’s resources, little room for choice was left but to utilize the wetland, on account of poverty- stricken living conditions. It seems that perhaps, through understanding why people are using the wetland in such extreme ways, methods of wetland rehabilitation and improvement in the socio-economic dynamic of the community can be attained in the near future. As a result of this study, a number of recommendations are made: (i) Integrate wetland value educational programmes into the lives of all South Africans; (ii) Consolidate and realign policy and legislation that specifically focus on wetland protection and conservation; (iii) Improve communication between governmental and respective local authorities; and (iv) Strengthen the national wetland inventory.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Science, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Master of Science. 14 April 2016.