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UKZN Students at Environmental Open Day Hosted by eThekwini Municipality

2017/10/06 08:32:08 AM

The Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD) hosted an open day for students from UKZN.


Mr Bongani Zungu enlightens students about the critically endangered KZN Sandstone Sourveld at the EPCPD-managed Edgecliff site. 

The Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD) of the eThekwini Municipality hosted an open day for students from UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the School of Life Sciences.

The day was held under the auspices of the Durban Research Action Partnership (D’RAP) - a joint initiative between the eThekwini Municipality and UKZN - which aims to bridge the 'science-policy-practice' gap by collaborative research in a range of disciplines.

Initiated following requests from D’RAP-funded students to have a more direct relationship with the eThekwini Municipality, the aim of the day was to provide a platform where municipal officials from the EPCPD and UKZN students shared knowledge while students were exposed to the working environment, projects and activities of the EPCPD.

The day began at the City Engineers Complex, where the group was welcomed by the Acting Deputy Head of the EPCPD, Ms Chumisa Thengwa, who spoke about the need for environmental management to be informed by scientifically sound research and information.

Presentations were given by EPCPD staff members on the roles and responsibilities of each of the five branches in the Department and covered topics including municipal compliance and enforcement, systematic conservation assessments, the management of D’MOSS, the process of proclaiming an urban nature reserve, the ecosystem restoration activities undertaken by the EPCPD, Durban’s 100 Resilient Cities Programme, and the City’s climate change adaptation response.

The Manager of the Climate Protection Branch, Dr Sean O’Donoghue, took the group on a tour which included the Green Roof Pilot Project, Moses Mabhida Stadium and the eThekwini Water and Sanitation Customer Service Building.

There was also an interactive session with a visit to two EPCPD-managed sites where the students were exposed to theories, debates and currently accepted grassland management activities of the Department. This session was led by Programme Manager in the Restoration Ecology Branch, Mr Bongani Zungu, and the Senior Environmental Technician from the Biodiversity Planning Branch, Mr Bheki Mdletshe.

At the Treasure Beach Grassland, the students took on the mantle of “professional veld management ecologists” in a fun exercise where they had to apply a scientifically developed tool to determine whether the Grassland was ready for a managed burn.

At the Edgecliff grassland, students learned about the management and protection of the highly endangered and sensitive KwaZulu-Natal Sandstone Sourveld (KZNSS) Grassland. The EPCPD currently owns the largest portion of the remaining KZNSS in KwaZulu-Natal, placing the onus on the eThekwini Municipality to protect and manage this ecosystem in a scientifically-responsible manner.

Positive feedback given by the students after the site visit brought the day to a close and emphasised the need for similar events in the future.

For more information on the Durban Research Action Partnership contact Professor Colleen Downs at Downs@ukzn.ac.za, or Dr Sean O’Donoghue at Sean.O'Donoghue@durban.gov.za

D’RAP aims to generate information to assist managers in the eThekwini Municipality in making biodiversity and conservation decisions, and to build capacity by supporting student research activities at UKZN. Such novel institutional partnerships are considered vital for the generation of knowledge and learning to address the gap between scientific research, policy development and management within a local government setting. D’RAP has so far been involved in three research programmes: KZN Sandstone Sourveld, Community Reforestation Research, and Global Environmental Change. 

Lulu van Rooyen.

UKZNDABA online

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