Where na­ture sets the tone

go! Platteland - - MY TOWN -

St Lu­cia, which lies in the heart of South Africa’s first World Her­itage Site, iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park, has a long, splen­did and some­times stormy his­tory. Recorded his­tory goes back to al­most a cen­tury be­fore Jan van Riebeeck’s ar­rival at the Cape, when it was chris­tened Rio de Areias de Ouro (River of Golden Sand) in 1554 by sur­vivors of the strand­ing of the Por­tuguese ship São Bento, but when the St Lu­cia River was re­named Tugela in 1575, the town be­came St Lu­cia.

Na­ture plays the lead role in the story of the town. You will find not only five biomes here – grass­land, wet­land, salt-wa­ter lake, for­est and sea – but also four of the Big Five (no lions, but then you will eas­ily spot whales if you’re tick­ing off the Big Six) and an es­ti­mated 2 000 croc­o­diles and 1 000 hip­pos.

An area of 368km2, in­clud­ing the lake, was de­clared a na­ture re­serve on 27 April 1897, mak­ing it the old­est de­clared re­serve in Africa. The name was later changed to the Greater St Lu­cia Wet­land Park and even­tu­ally to iSi­man­gal­iso in 2007.

The past few years have seen ma­jor dis­agree­ments be­tween the sugar-cane farm­ers of Monzi and park man­age­ment, re­sult­ing in a drawn-out court case. In brief, the farm­ers want to ar­ti­fi­cially breach the mouth of the iM­folozi River so that sugar-cane fields es­tab­lished on the flood­plain are pro­tected, but the con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties say this means mil­lions of litres of fresh wa­ter then run into the sea, whereas it’s re­ally needed to re­store the bal­ance be­tween fresh and salt wa­ter in the lake. (In 2015, in par­tic­u­lar, there was a ma­jor cri­sis when the drought re­sulted in the lake dry­ing up. Dead fish by the thou­sands were scat­tered across the dry bed and the lives of the hip­pos, crocs and count­less other an­i­mal species were un­der se­vere threat.)

In May 2017, the Dur­ban High Court dis­missed, with costs, the farm­ers’ ap­pli­ca­tion to use bull­doz­ers to open up the river mouth. The court found that na­ture should be al­lowed to take its course. A few towns­peo­ple even be­lieve the only thing that will res­cue the sit­u­a­tion is a se­vere storm, like Do­moina in 1984, that will bring a lot of wa­ter and wash out the whole sys­tem.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.