The Land Rehabilitation Society of Southern Africa (LaRSSA) will host its first conference in October, whereby information on land rehabilitation under way in South Africa, will be made available to different stakeholders.
“To rehabilitate land efficiently, continual improvement of land rehabilitation practices towards sustainable land use is essential. However, it is also important that information be shared among different stakeholders in the industry to avoid the duplication of research and projects,” says LaRSSA cofounding member and president Dr Wayne Truter.
He adds that it is also important that this shared information help other stakeholders to not make similar mistakes but also introduce their success stories. The conference is aimed, therefore, at creating a platform whereby stakeholders can share ideas and learn more about what is being done in industry.
Truter mentions that the three-day conference, which will be held in Pretoria from October 9 to 11, will encompass a technical forum and a field trip to areas that require rehabilitation and where rehabilitation is under way.
“One of the sites to be visited is a rehabilitated coal mine in Mpumalanga, which is being converted into agricultural land. This will give the members of society a broader idea of research being conducted and the efforts made by some mining companies to address various rehabilitation aspects to ensure that rehabilitation of land is sustainable and beneficial to the country.
LaRSSA states that reclaiming agricultural land is imperitive, especially when large areas are used by industrial activities. Other areas disturbed that do not have agricultural potential, may only be rehabilitated to an environmentally stable, nonpollutive, socially acceptable and aesthetically pleasing condition.
“It is imperative to rehabilitate large areas of land that are mined, especially if land was used for agriculture prior to mining, so that post mining land users are able to continue to use the land for crop and animal production,” he explains.
The society mentions that end-land-use management is key in land rehabilitation planning and processes and is reflected in its vision statement “Continual improvement of land rehabilitation best practices towards sustainable land use”, and will definitely be highlighted at the conference. Land can be rehabilitated for urban development purposes, industrial parks, recreational parks and/or facilities. Other areas can be rehabilitated to ensure the stability of an area with no other use than being aesthetically pleasing, usually referred to as wilderness areas.
He further adds that LaRSSA covers the full spectrum of land rehabilitation, as it also provides information on the rehabilitation of discard and tailings waste disposal sites and sites where acid mine drainage may have impacted the land.
The mission of the society is to be multidisciplinary in promoting land rehabilitation that is scientific, technically robust, economically viable and socially acceptable.
“We currently have about 150 members who have insight into land rehabilitation taking place in different sectors in Southern Africa, which include specialists in the technical aspects of land rehabilitation and in the planning and management of land rehabilitation projects, as well as people who have done academic research on land rehabilitation,” he highlights.
Truter points out that to keep the society functional, LaRSSA aims to approach interested sponsors to assist the society in achieving its objectives. LaRSSA aims to help government authorities and companies in providing a communication channel to aid the review and professional conduct of current and future land rehabilitation projects.
The society also aims to identify funding opportunities for future research to address new challenges that arise from the conference in October.
“It is important for the society not to depend on membership fees to function. Our members must focus on learning and developing ideas to provide solutions for land rehabilitation and also gain recognition as land rehabilitation specialists,” he highlights.
LaRSSA has also called for stakeholders to submit case studies and research studies in the form of platform presentations by July 31 and poster presentations on work conducted in Southern Africa by August 30 for the conference.
Case studies that should be submitted include, but are not limited to, nonreplicated field studies and examples of reclamation that have been employed at a field site. The case studies could be replicated projects in space and time, but which have not been subjected to statistical analyses. Also, to be considered for the conference a one-page synopsis must be submitted to be considered.
“A website is being developed to provide members with access to information on current legislation, new developments in the discipline, current and completed research projects and any other important information pertaining to land rehabilitation to ultimately identify ideas for future projects.
“At the rate at which people are joining the society, we hope that LaRSSA will eventually provide mentors, forums, skills and development platforms to help younger members gain knowledge about the land rehabilitation discipline and the integrated skills not necessarily obtained at tertiary institutions,” he points out.
Truter adds that because land rehabilitation is an integrated science and involves environmental, agricultural, geography, water management, engineering, economic and social sciences, and many others, this makes it such a unique discipline.
“For land rehabilitation to be successful, all professionals from different disciplines need to share their expertise to achieve a common goal towards sustainable land rehabilitation outcomes," he concludes.