Tree clearing for waterway projects will follow guidelines, says City

The liveable urban waterways programme will be piloted in various water bodies in the Sand River catchment, of which Zandvlei is part.

Trees will only be removed when absolutely necessary and after careful consideration and consultation when work starts on a series of projects to clean up water bodies in the Sand River catchment.

This is according to a City statement last week on the liveable urban waterways (LUW) programme.

Work is expected to start on five waterway improvement projects in 2024.

Since the programme started at the beginning of the year, the City has established a team of consultants that has produced reports on the waterways.

The findings have informed the concept designs for the projects in the Sand River catchment and will be used to obtain environmental and water-use authorisations and provide baseline data to monitor how the waterways change during and after the projects are implemented, according to the City.

Concept designs were shown to the public in November, and public comments would be considered as the concept designs were finalised, said the City.

“The concept designs represent a conceptual river corridor plan; during the course of detailed design and implementation, there may be some alterations to the concepts. There is still a lot of work for us to do and some factors outside our immediate control before we finalise exactly what we implement and the timing thereof,” said a statement from the City’s LUW project team.

After the projects move to a detailed-design phase, the City will need water-use, environmental and heritage authorisation from national and provincial government, and contractors will be brought onto the project team during the construction and landscaping phases of the projects.

“It is not the intention to remove all non-indigenous trees in the projects,” said the City, noting that removals would only happen when absolutely necessary and after careful consideration and consultation with interested and affected parties.

Examples of an unavoidable removal, included trees that presented an unmanageable threat to human life or property, trees that interfered with essential services and trees that were diseased or dying, the City said, adding that it also had a legal obligation to remove certain alien and invasive trees.

“Only invasive tree species listed in terms of the NEMBA (National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act) and those that have a direct, negative impact on the structure and ecological functioning of the waterways will be considered for removal, and even then, only if no alternative management options are available. Each tree will be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” the City said.

“Where possible, a replacement planting programme will be initiated, comprising of new trees that are more suitable to the area. In addition to this, there are other areas of the project sites that have been identified in the concept design as being appropriate for the re-introduction of Afro-montane forest species. It is anticipated that there will be a net gain of trees over the project sites.”

The concept designs for the LUW programme can be found at lukhozi.co.za