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An environment-friendly road-building project in the iSimangaliso (formerly Greater St Lucia) wetland park is enhancing the area’s status as a natural World Heritage Site.
It is also providing jobs for the local community and cutting road maintenance costs.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority CEO Andrew Zaloumis said last week that concrete strips were being laid about 10 mm below the sand level, allowing sand to sift back onto the road and grass to grow between the strips.
“This gives the road a better sense of place than a tarred surface or a gravel surface while, at the same time, providing a robust concrete base,” he said. “Unlike gravel, the concrete is inert and does not bring nutrients into a low-nutrient system and associated alien weeds.”
He said another advantage was that gravel roads had to be graded biannually and regravelled every five years, while the concrete strip roads were built to last 30 to 40 years.
About 6 km of concrete strip roads have already been built on the eastern and western shores of Lake St Lucia as part of the 300-km internal road network being developed in the park, which includes 9% of South Africa’s coastline.
The redevelopment of the iSimangaliso wetland park started in 2003 and is being undertaken in a phased approach. The project is now about 60% complete and is expected to be completed by 2013.
About R250-million has been invested in the redevelopment to date. Funding sources have included government’s Expanded Public Works Programme and Infrastructure Fund. iSimangaliso has budgeted a further R90-million over the next two-and-a-half years.
“The concrete strip roads have been built by local small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs).
“Minimum labour targets are set, including 50% of workers being women, thus empowering the local community,” Zaloumis said. “In addition to construction, land rehabi- litation has seen the removal of about 15 000 ha of exotic plantations, with ongoing alien clearance being undertaken by local SMMEs, providing jobs for several thousand people. This includes the closing and removal of roads and infrastructure in environmentally inappropriate areas.”
The roads will be maintained by the SMMEs, which are being trained by Goba Consulting Engineers & Project Managers, iSimangaliso’s engineering consultancy.
Goba technical director Freek Serton said the civil engineering company had been appointed by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority in 2007 to project-manage and design the infrastructure for the park. Its contract is due to expire in October 2010.
Serton said the main challenge had been to deliver high-quality infrastructure while meeting the funders’ requirements in terms of local labour and emerging contractor content.
“Part of our job is to supervise the contractors, many of whom are keen to learn but have very little contracting experience,” he said. “They, therefore, require a lot of input to produce a quality job on time.”
The iSimangaliso park extends 220 km along South Africa’s coastline, from Maphalene, in the south, to Kosi Bay, in the north, and inland, including the uMkhuze game reserve, covering a total of 320 000 ha.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Margie Inggs, Engineering News