Gorge could become nature park
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Durban - Moves are afoot to preserve Giba Gorge, a little-known environmental gem on the outskirts of Hillcrest, Durban – said by some enthusiasts to be “unique” – by having it proclaimed a nature reserve.
Giba Gorge is treasured by environmentalists because of its natural beauty, and the number of rare and threatened ecosystems it contains in a relatively small area.
The gorge – not to be confused with the mountain bike park of similar name – covers about 400 hectares to the south-east of Hillcrest, between the M13 and N3 highways.
It has already been designated an “environmental precinct” and is being run by a board of trustees in co-operation with the eThekwini, Municipality.
“The gorge is South Africa’s first environmental precinct,” said Mike Lohrentz, founder trustee and a driving force behind conservation efforts. “The others are urban precincts.”
Lohrentz said the move to have the gorge proclaimed a reserve had been launched to give further protection to the area. “We want to protect this area forever and that means stopping all further development.”
He praised the eThekwini Municipality for the “fantastic” part it had already played in moves to establish and protect Giba. “They have given us every bit of support we needed.”
The Giba Gorge Environmental Precinct was established on July 1, 2010, after a long campaign to get the support of all landowners on its outskirts and within its limits.
“We have 167 ratepayers in the precinct,” Lohrentz said. “They each pay a special rate of about R50 a month on average.”
He said the private owners’ land now made up about 50 percent of the precinct. “About 20 percent is municipal land and the other 30 percent belongs to the National Road Agency.”
The gorge, he said, was quite isolated from busy highways and the public eye, and many local people were not even aware of its existence.
“A lot of people living near here are amazed when they find out about it.”
He added, however, that the precinct was slowly becoming known. “There have been quite a few families coming down here lately, as well as cyclists and horse riders. And the scouts also use the gorge.”
Lohrentz and a fellow Giba trustee, Steve Camp, contacted the Daily News after a recent report about the “poor quality” of the sewage effluent being discharged from the Hillcrest Private Hospital.
They believe the effluent will eventually make its way into the Umhlatuzana River, which flows through the lower part of the Giba precinct.
Sewage, they said, remained a serious problem in much of the Hillcrest area and they wanted to add Giba’s voice to an appeal to the authorities to do all in their power to arrive at a workable solution.
They support a suggestion from others in Hillcrest that a pipeline be built to carry the area’s sewage to the Umhlatuzana wastewater works.
“We could have a problem here, even at the top end of Giba Gorge,” said Camp. “There are also septic tanks and package plants on the heights above us, and seepage and run-off from them can end up in the Giba River.”
Camp said the gorge was an environmental treasure trove. It was covered in large part by lush scarp forest, with a wide variety of indigenous trees and undergrowth.
“We also have KwaZulu-Natal sandstone, sourveld grasslands, as well as rivers and wetlands, and sandstone cliffs – all with different ecosystems.
“In the gorge are about 20 different types of frog species, including the Kloof frog, which is found only at Karkloof and here.
“In the scarp forest we have the ruby-footed, giant millipede. It is found only in and around this area.
“This is the only known place in the world where you find the blood lily. It is critically endangered. And the sandstone grasslands here are highly endangered.” - Daily News