Conservation area on the cards for Illiondale wetlands

Irwin Juckes of River Watch emphasising the need for the rehabilitation project of the Illiondale Wetland to be conducted in a careful and precise manner to ensure no more habitat is lost. Seen behind him is the area which has had reeds cut down.

Community members can look forward to having access to a rehabilitated Illiondale Wetland and a possible conservation area in the future.

On June 27 a group of community members met with a representative from Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality to discuss the progress on the wetland project.

The meeting was attended by Lesley Thomas, chairperson of Illiondale Wetland Buddies, Clr Heather Hart from Ward 18, Irwin Juckes from River Watch, Margy Pedder and Sekhonyana Lerotholi of the EMM.

Margy Pedder, Clr Heather Hart (Ward 18) and Lesley Thomas, chairperson of Illiondale Wetland Buddies at the meeting held on June 27 to discuss the future of the Illiondale Wetland.

The community questioned what is being done by the EMM to rehabilitate the wetland.

Themba Gadebe, spokesperson and senior media manager of EMM said the municipality begun rehabilitating the wetland in April this year.

He explained through the rehabilitation work alien vegetation will be removed and gabions will be installed in the channel.

“Specialist studies undertaken in 2014 revealed that the wetland was heavily impacted by erosion, alien vegetation encroachment and loss of habitat for biodiversity,” said Gadebe.

At the wetland, a large amount of vegetation had already been cut down. This included overgrown reeds and invasive species of trees.

Thomas highlighted since the beginning of the rehabilitation project more community members could be seen making use of the wetlands.

Also read: Illiondale wetlands to be rehabilitated

“Gabions in the channel have had the most dramatic effect whilst the cutting of the reeds have had a positive visual effect, but despite this, we need a sustainable plan,” said Thomas.

Clr Heather Hart of Ward 18 at the meeting listening to some of the proposed used for the Illiondale Wetland once it has been rehabilitated.

Hart said the erosion has taken a toll on the river. What used to be a stream was now a wide channel.

Over the years the flow of water had increased.

“Considering it is winter now most of the water we see flowing through is artificial,” said Juckes.

Thomas agreed with Juckes and said often she had seen the water level rise at 11am and decrease at 4pm.

Possible uses for the wetland were also discussed. Some of the suggestions brought forward included a bird sanctuary, cycling/running trails or a conservation area.

Pedder said she hopes to see the wetland become a recreational area for the community.

Juckes stressed the need for care to be taken by EMM when rehabilitating the wetland.

He explained if not maintained or rehabilitated properly the wetland could lose its biodiversity.

“As a habitat, the wetland has been devastated in some areas,” said Juckes.

Gadebe told the NEWS that the project to rehabilitate the wetland has been successful so far but will only be completed in June 2018.

One of the weirs which line the channel and which cuts through the Illiondale Wetland. The gabions were installed to try to prevent further erosion of the river banks.

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