Environment Programme

Airports Company South Africa Environment Programme 

As owners of nine considerably sized properties, Airports Company South Africa has a statutory responsibility to manage, mitigate and report on environmental issues at these sites. The activities at an airport have substantial effects on the environment, including water, electricity and fuel usage, air quality, noise and waste. The company has implemented sophisticated measurements and controls, and liaises with airport stakeholders to manage these effects. Reporting is compliant with the requirements of King III and the Global Reporting Initiative. 

Taking responsibility beyond operational considerations, Airports Company South Africa has formed strategic partnerships with leading non-governmental organisations to support their environmental programmes. These include projects within communities adjacent to airports and also to national programmes.   

BirdLife South Africa 

BirdLife South Africa is the leading bird conservation non-governmental organisation (NGO) in South Africa and has the vision of promoting the conservation, research and understanding of birds and their habitats. It is the South African Partner of BirdLife International (based in England), which has 117 partners around the world and is the world's largest conservation alliance, with more than 2,5 million members. 

In response to the rapidly increasing threat of bird extinctions, Airports Company South Africa has taken up the challenge by becoming a 'Species Champion' for the threatened Secretarybird. This is a donor role in the global BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Programme, which is managed locally by BirdLife South Africa. 

Supporting research to help conserve the threatened secretarybird

A bird of prey (or raptor), the Secretarybird occurs throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where its preferred habitat is pristine grassland. Its population is experiencing a rapid decline, owing to such factors as habitat degradation and loss, disturbance, hunting, poisoning and collision with power lines and fences. 

The Airports Company South Africa funding has supported a number of research initiatives to gain a better understanding of the population dynamics of the Secretarybird. Eight fledglings have had satellite-linked tracking devices attached to them and already valuable data has been obtained regarding their movements: where they roost at night, where they forage and their preferred habitat. Analysis of this information will provide invaluable information in the design and implementation of conservation measures to prevent further decline in the numbers of this iconic bird.

Other studies are being conducted to establish nesting success rates and the diet of nestlings. 

A pair of Secretarybirds regularly visits Kimberley Airport and an attempt will be made in the next breeding season to establish the location of their nest and to attach a tracking device to a fledgling.  

Wildlands Conservation Trust 

Two years ago, King Shaka International Airport formed a three-year partnership with Wildlands Conservation Trust to facilitate a Community Based Ecosystem Adaptation (CEBA) project for communities surrounding the Airport. CEBA is a model whereby skills and training are provided to communities to better their lives and livelihoods, while providing economic upliftment through environmental conservation initiatives. In this case two communities in the Tongaat River catchment (King Shaka International Airport lies in this catchment) are beneficiaries of the project. 

As a means of ensuring the sustainability of the undertaking, skills training has been provided and has included the control of alien invasive plants, propagation and planting of indigenous trees, ecosystem restoration, financial literacy and urban agriculture.  

Growing indigenous trees from seed has provided income generation for 140 'treepreneurs' from the Ndwedwe community and they have propagated more trees than are required for the project. Excess trees are bartered for water tanks, food and educational support. It is estimated that there are more than 30 000 trees still to be collected later in the year and these will provide goods worth approximately R150 000. These trees will be planted as part of the restoration of the Tongaat River catchment.   

Trees for sale

A team of eight community members, who were all unemployed prior to this initiative, have been undertaking restoration work through the clearing of alien plants within degraded forest and riparian areas adjacent to the Burbreeze community and the planting of indigenous trees. So far, more than 500 trees, consisting of various species, have been planted. This team also assisted at the Mona River (a tributary of the Tongaat) restoration site at which more than 40 000 trees have been planted. 

A decision was taken to support Burbreeze residents to establish vegetable gardens next to their houses. A demonstration garden was prepared in March 2014 on a steep slope with shallow topsoil as a means of teaching residents the necessary techniques. Planted in the garden and doing well are bananas, madumbes, sweet potatoes, comfrey, marigolds, pawpaws, tree tomatoes, melon pears, cherry tomatoes, aubergines, malabar chestnuts, moringa, chilies, basil, beans, gem squash, pumpkins, pigeon peas, gooseberries, nasturtiums and granadillas. The garden beds were secured using vetiver grass. 

The team has also been developing a fruit orchard and when complete it will provide the community with food and also with a seed source for sustainable fruit tree growing in the future. The vetiver grass used as a boundary to the orchard will be used in the next steep gardens in Burbreeze. Once again this orchard will serve as a training and educational tool. Compost heaps that were created in the orchard during training will also be used in future gardens. Trees planted include litchi, mango, avocado, malabar chestnut, jackfruit, bananas, macadamia nut and pigeon pea. 

The Burbreeze community has 36 'wastepreneurs' who collect recyclable waste, which has included the removal of illegal dumps. In 2014, more than 16 tons of waste has been bartered for in excess of R11 000. On visiting the project, Terence Delomoney, General Manager of King Shaka International Airport, said, I am very pleased to see how the Burbreeze community is changing its landscape to a more sustainable state. It is rewarding that the airport's support is changing lives in a small way and, in this case, one tree at a time." 

WWF-South Africa 

As part of the global World Wildlife Fund, WWF-South Africa's mission is to halt the degradation of the natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. 

The organisation focuses on regions that have been scientifically identified as home to irreplaceable and threatened biological diversity, or those that represent the best opportunity to conserve the largest and most intact representative of that ecosystem. This has increasingly resulted in investments in high-value ecological assets: those areas that provide critical ecosystem services to society, such as water, food, fibre and carbon. 

Environmental responsibility is a key component of Airports Company South Africa's philosophy and its support of WWF-SA's Land and Stewardship programme has been a clear demonstration of this.  

Conserving the environment

The programme has been implemented through land purchase and historically this has been undertaken in the Western and Northern Cape, which together house two globally significant biodiversity hotspots, namely the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo biomes. These internationally recognised hotspots hold unsurpassed levels of biodiversity and endemism, and the programme has enabled the incorporation of more than 380 000 hectares in recent years into more than 32 nature reserves and national parks.  

More recently, the programme has been extended into the Grassland biome. This is of exceptional importance to the nation as it holds the major part of South Africa's economic activity and also provides the greatest share of our water to the economic heartland of the nation in Gauteng. 

None of WWF-SA's programmes are divorced from the critical issues of social justice and economic wellbeing, the creation of jobs and working with communities to assist in their development. The emphasis has been to secure South Africa's biodiversity with innovative and socially inclusive approaches to conserve biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.​