SANRAL rolls out enviro-management programme for N2 Wild Coast Toll Road

SEPTEMBER 23, 2016

The South African National Roads Agency Soc Ltd (SANRAL) has initiated their planned environmental conservation programmes designed to protect the Eastern Cape plant biological diversity and natural heritage of the Wild Coast as part of the environmental management plan of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road (N2WCTR).

SANRAL announced today it is in the process of evaluating proposals following a formal tendering process for a service provider with botanical and conservation expertise to implement aspects of the environmental management plan for the N2WCTR. The successful service provider - to be appointed later this month by SANRAL - will be responsible for search and rescue, horticultural and rehabilitation services of threatened, protected and rare plant species near the sites of the Msikaba and the Mtentu Bridges outside Lusikisiki and Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape.

Search and rescue missions will take place before all phases of the project including the initial construction of haul roads to the Msikaba and Mtentu river bridge sites (scheduled for September 2016 – February 2017), the construction of the two mega-bridges (early 2017 - late 2019), and for construction of all other road works and bridges ( 2018 - 2020/21).

“Our first priority is to put programmes and initiatives in place to comply with the conditions of the record of decision from the Department of Environmental Affairs. All SANRAL road construction and engineering projects in South Africa and the Eastern Cape have stringent and well-planned environmental management plans, but none more so than on these N2 Wild Coast Projects. All SANRAL projects are finely monitored and evaluated. The environment and communities in the Wild Coast are and will be our first priority,” said Mbulelo Peterson, SANRAL’s Southern Region Manager.

Peterson said SANRAL is working with and not against environmental justice groups.

“The problem is that provocateurs are conflating the issue of commercial mining in one small part of the region with this road, demonising the Wild Coast road as something bad for the environment and that SANRAL engineering projects destroy the natural environment and local heritage. The N2WCTR and the mining projects are two separate projects, and are not interconnected,” he said.

“So, we are now giving final reassurances that SANRAL maintains a stellar track-record in environmental management as we have always done, and we will treat the Wild Coast natural and cultural heritage with respect,” Peterson said.

The appointed service provider will be responsible for:

  • establishing and maintaining plant nurseries at suitable locations;
  • undertaking tasks as set out in the Plant Search and Rescue Plan;
  • rescuing plant material listed as protected, vulnerable or rare and additional plant species suitable for rehabilitation;
  • utilising and involving local communities to harvest plant materials that have traditional uses in accordance with an agreed and structured programme;
  • harvesting exposed and weathered rocks, as appropriate, for placement in suitable locations in disturbed areas as part of the rehabilitation process at completion of works;
  • undertaking plant propagation of suitable species (from seeds and cuttings);
  • assisting contractors with vegetative rehabilitation through reintroduction of rescued and propagated plant material and seeding; and
  • assisting contractors with maintenance of rehabilitated areas by way of weeding, watering, replanting and repair of damaged areas.

“In close cooperation with the National Botanical Institute and with the input of environmental authorities and groups all rare, endangered and endemic species and species of conservation value will be translocated to suitable nurseries with the aim to both re-establish in an existing conservation area and to assist with the rehabilitation of disturbed areas after construction,” said Peterson.

He said the route for the N2WCTR has been planned to minimize the impact on environmentally sensitive biomes and existing human communities and settlements. SANRAL will ensure the preservation of flora where there is a degree of intrusion.

“In the limited forest areas affected, suitable tree seedlings and understory plants will be rescued and kept in a nursery for re-planting in suitable sites after construction. Areas that might be disturbed will be re-vegetated using either specified indigenous seed mix where appropriate and/or vegetation removed as part of the initial search and rescue operation,” he said.

For both the Msikaba and the Mtentu bridge sites the terrestrial vegetation consists mostly of grasslands, scrub and forests.

SANRAL has identified a Protea simplex community along the southern approach road to the Msikaba Bridge. Forest margin vegetation is found on both edges of the river gorge, with the southern edge of the river gorge especially being species-rich. Forest margin species such as Rapanea melanophloeos are often fast-growing and will be taken into account for rehabilitation purposes at these sites.

Both the north and south sites of the Mtentu River Bridge is a Protea savanna with Protea simplex and Protea caffra species. Gorge or scarp forest vegetation will only be impacted at the Mtentu River Bridge’s north site as one of the bridge piers will be positioned in the forest proper. Forest margin vegetation is found on the edges of both banks of the Mtentu River Bridge site.

Peterson said SANRAL and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency will later announce more details on the environmental off-set agreement designed to mitigate the impact of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road on the local environment that cannot be avoided.

Image: PROTECTING NATURAL HERITAGE: Michelle Ah Shene, Communications Manager for SANRAL Southern Region holds a sample of Rapanea melanophloeos, one of the plant species that will be searched and rescued as part of the environmental management plan for the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road.