ABI Partners debate wind, water at AGM


The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) held its second annual general meeting as a voluntary association in June. The meeting was attended by landowners, municipal officials, conservation authorities and non-governmental organisations.


ABI operates as a landscape initiative across the Overberg-area. ABI partners work together to secure a productive healthy natural environment. It is currently coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust.


Partners at the meeting broached a number of topics related to the themes in which ABI operates. The Landmark Foundation’s Jeannine McManus presented her findings on the leopard population in the Overberg area. ABI Chair and Agri Western Cape President Cornie Swart also offered insight into some of the challenges around implementing the National Water Act, and the impact on land users.


The impact of wind farms


Partners furthermore debated the use of wind farms in the Overberg. The Overberg has been highlighted as an area of national strategic importance for wind and solar power development by the Department of Environmental Affairs. It is one of eight areas identified across the country.


According to environmental consultant André van der Spuy, there are few wind farms in South Africa as yet, and therefore there is not much local data available on the impacts of wind farms. In these circumstances, government must apply a cautious approach to giving wind farms the go-ahead, based on international information.


He highlighted the impact of wind farms on bat and bird populations. Bats in particular not only collide with rotating blades, but also often die from pressure displacement created by the rotating blades. International studies have shown heavy impacts on bat populations in the past, with wind farms also disturbing bat habitats. Birds that are particularly vulnerable to wind farms include vultures, eagles, blue cranes, bustards, and water birds such as flamingos. Good practice guidelines to guide specialists involved in environmental impact assessments are now available. These ensure a baseline monitoring programme is undertaken for a 12-month period before construction, while a post-construction monitoring programme is also required.


Amendment to ABI theme areas


Participants at the ABI AGM decided at the meeting to revise the theme areas in which ABI operates. ABI has to date worked on five themes across the landscape, as decided at its foundation meeting in 2011: land-use planning, environmental education, responsible tourism, climate change adaptation and mitigation and energy for sustainable development. It was decided to amalgamate the latter two themes into a new theme: transitioning to a green economy.


A new committee was also elected at the AGM, with the appointments to be finalised. The ABI Chair for 2014 is Cornie Swart, President of Agri Western Cape. Elected committee members are: Maarten Groos, Tierck Hoekstra, William Stafford, Russell Metcalfe, Bulelwa Msengi, Hennis Germishuys, Odette Curtis, Rory Allardice and Lesley Richardson.


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