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Environmental department discusses ways to minimise impact on biodiversity
Conserving eThekwini’s biodiversity through strategic land-use planning was deliberated at an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) webinar held between the City’s environmentalists and various departments recently.
 
The discussions focused on the EIA process with a specific reference to biodiversity considerations including mitigation measures and biodiversity offsets.
 
Biodiversity offsets are a measure for conservation action intended to compensate residual loss following conservation measures including avoiding, minimising and remedying impact on biodiversity. 
 
Acting Senior Manager for the Biodiversity Planning Branch, who is also a Senior Specialist Ecologist in the City’s Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD), Cameron McLean explained planning actions aimed at protecting the over 2 000 plant, 526 bird, 69 reptile and 37 amphibian species which from part of eThekwini Municipality’s biodiversity.
 
“Our primary planning tool that we use within the environmental space, along the government level, is the Durban Metro Open Space System (D’MOSS) which has evolved significantly in response to improve methodology changes and over time, spatial changes in terms of the extent of the Municipal area. In terms of the mapping process, we have moved to systematic conservation planning which is largely based on specific biodiversity targets,” explained McLean.
 
He said the advantages of this approach is efficiency in trying to achieve biodiversity targets in the smallest possible area.
 
Biodiversity targets look at ecosystem types such as forests and grasslands and focus on the minimum area required in order for those specific habitats to prevent the loss of species.
 
Senior Environmentalist at the Biodiversity Impact Assessment (BIA) Branch within the EPCPD Sabelo Nkosi said one of the most important parts of conserving the environment is keeping mitigation hierarchy in mind throughout the implementation of all development projects.
 
“We only consider biodiversity offsets once all steps of the mitigation hierarchy have been implemented. It is important that mitigation hierarchy is applied in every project planning cycle from the inception of the project throughout the environmental impact process as well as when the project is being implemented,” said Nkosi.
 
It is equally important to have a proper offsets agreement in place before any activity commences to achieve the intended goals, he said.
 
Greg Mullins, an environmentalist within the Biodiversity Impact Assessment Branch, shared innovative responses to proactive planning and biodiversity offsets which included the Northern Resilience Pilot project carried out at the King Shaka International Airport as well as the Cato Ridge Local Area Plan.
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