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Environmental Protection
A number of projects have been initiated that are associated with the protection and sustainability of the Ingula properties. These projects have either been initiated by the Ingula Partnership or are Eskom projects influenced by the Ingula Advisory Committee: Conservation and the Steering Committee.
 
The following are some of the key projects, identified as a priority, to either fulfil the requirements of the Record of Decision or to ensure the environmental protection and sustainability of the larger wetland area.

Alien vegetation eradication

More than 95 per cent of alien trees on the Eskom property have been treated over the last two years and of these, 90 per cent have been effectively controlled. The involvement of the community in this process was a significant element, as it creates direct employment opportunities through local contractors and allows for independent harvesters to utilise the wood.

A follow up application will be required in cleared areas for the foreseeable future, which will involve further intensive management of seedlings and the coppicing and removal of trees. 

Fire management

The fire management programme has seen the implementation of a fire strategy to:
 
  • Eliminate risk to the site for individuals, equipment and infrastructure
  • Reduce risk to and from neighbours
  • Manage biodiversity to ensure a sample of grassland remains unburnt each year and that refuge areas for animals are developed.

Eskom has purchased fire equipment to assist with threatening fires that often occur in the region. A burn plan for the properties of the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme has been created and implemented, based on seasonal and environment-specific objectives. However, this has been compromised by random and frequent acts of arson, both on and off the site. There is a plan in place to limit the acts of arson to ensure sustainable burn practices on site. This involves working with both land owners in the region and dwellers on the property, and involves changing burning practices used for many years in the area.

Erosion control

A number of large programmes have been implemented to control erosion, largely guided by the erosion control strategy document developed in conjunction with the Ingula Advisory Committee: Conservation and approved by the Partnership Steering Committee. The impact of historic erosion caused by years of overgrazing and unsustainable stock management   is being reduced, largely assisted by the reduction of livestock on the property, and minimising activities which could create new erosion or exacerbate existing erosion.
 
Through Eskom-related erosion projects, the likelihood for further erosion to occur on site has been minimised through environmental awareness programmes, ensuring people are aware of the impacts caused by off road driving and inappropriate veld management, which has been achieved by reducing the number of roads on which people can drive on. A three-phased programme, focusing on the stabilisation of existing erosion features, the prevention of new erosion points and the remediation of existing sites, has been established.
 
Phase one and two have almost been completed and will be continued throughout the construction programme. It is intended that phase three will be implemented as part of a long term job creation process as soon as phase one and two have been completed.  Focus will soon be moving to the third phase, and erosion control has already started in the vicinity of the lower Bramhoek dam and in the immediate catchment of the Bedford Dam.

Community Development

The Ingula Partnership focused on Hamilberg School to ensure the school’s on-going development. Infrastructure has been improved at the school through the building of classrooms and accommodation for the teacher by the Eskom Development Foundation. A number of educational lessons on the role of the environment, provided by members of the Partnership have also been initiated. The dedicated and caring teams on site have had several blanket and book collections for the children, which have been supplied to the children. 
 
Unfortunately, there are still problems relating to the water supply, but these should be resolved soon. The cancellation of the school transport programme by the Free State Department of Education has led to a reduction in the numbers of pupils at the school, and governance issues remain a challenge.
 
The Ingula Partnership Steering Committee identified that social and socio-economic aspects of the project required more focus and recommended the establishment of the Ingula Advisory Committee: Social, which will deal with community-related development into the future. It is hoped that this committee will further drive improvements at the school and ensure a more positive environment for the staff and pupils at the school.