Is it Savable?
We wrote this article in response to several articles published in the Midrand Reporter. However, we received no response. Therefore, we posted it on our site to express personal opinion about the future of the Bullfrog. This too is to play “Devil’s Advocate”.
I strongly support protecting various animals and fauna, such as the Giant African Bullfrog and Grass Owl. However, I find it amusing that people have got so hyped to the Witpoort Pump Station. This is because is is a small structure occupying less than 1000 square meters of land. Other important issues should have been considered before constructing it.
It surprises me that people are only objecting to the pump station after its construction. This is despite no objections during the process or pre-advertising. Concerns have been raised about sewage spillage risks. Johannesburg Water implemented various precautions, such as Auto Start generators and notification systems for any system failure. Excessive storage also provided.
We need to prioritize protecting wetlands, grasslands, and the environment, but these concerns should have been addressed earlier. Sewer and stormwater disposal from residential and commercial developments should have been considered first. This would have been well in advance of constructing the pump station. The pump station was a necessity to provide essential services for the planned development. This was to house a population of over 10,000 people in the region. However, sewer is a gravity service. Its because of this it could only be placed at lower points in valleys. This is where more often wetlands occur and stormwater is discharged. Wetlands can extend beyond the 1:50 or 1:100 flood line due to geological/ geographical features. These may bring groundwater to the surface.
Residential and commercial developments pose a greater threat to the wildlife in the area. They destroy the natural habitat of various species. Some examples are the Flap-Neck Chameleons and grass owls. With electric fences, boundary walls, and manicured gardens cause their demise. These developments have wiped out thousands of square meters of the environment. This is making the pump station look insignificant in comparison. A photo printed in the “Midrand Reporter – Vol 27, Number 22, Week Ending 3 June 2005” shows the lack of wetland, along with large-scale development on the right side of the photo, representing thousands of square meters of the environment that has been lost.
Stormwater is the most significant threat to the Bullfrog. This is not the possibility of a sewer overflow, Albeit this is damaging for other reasons. Bullfrogs prefer grassland pans of still water that fill up during the rainy season. This is because the grassland pans are being destroyed with development, and those that still exist are often polluted by stormwater discharge from roads. The chemicals and oil in stormwater are toxic to frogs, as they have permeable skin. Bio-filters in nature are also being destroyed by the increased traffic in the area after the first few rains, causing a buildup of chemicals.
It should be noted that the Grass Owl predominantly inhabits grasslands, not exclusively wetlands. Additionally, the Giant African Bullfrog does not live in streams and is not a highly viable species to live or breed in them. While the odd male may be found in the area during migration in search of breeding colonies, they would not be found breeding in a flowing stream.
Activists and residents in the area should answer the following questions:
- Why do they find it acceptable for large-scale development to bring in hundreds to thousands of people, despite the greater threat this poses to the environment compared to the pump station?
- Why are they focusing their attention on a small structure that is only removing effluent, instead of addressing the larger issue of the impact of development on the environment, including land destruction and chemical pollution?
- Why is little to nothing being said about the discharge of stormwater systems into waterways that will destroy wetlands and wildlife populations?
- Can proof of Giant African Bullfrog releases and the quantity of specimens be provided by Mr. Fairall, as witnessed by him?
- Is the real catastrophe the building of the pump station for 10,000 new people or the lack of objection to new residential developments in the environmentally sensitive area that requires the pump station?
I have a very pessimistic view about the survival of the Bullfrog in the wild in Midrand. The species’ ability to thrive is being hindered by high levels of pollution and traffic, as well as the closure of natural migratory routes by roads and boundary walls – all of which has been permitted due to too much development. An extract from the STAR newspaper supports this view, stating that the Bullfrog project has been launched in developing areas to save the species from extinction caused by massive construction work.
Perhaps a few isolated colonies will be fortunate enough to survive, but only time will tell. Rather than engaging in petty arguments over a small pump station, efforts should be focused on setting up registered Bullfrog breeding projects or protecting wetlands and grassland away from the encroaching concrete jungle and stormwater systems.
The reader must decide which poses a greater threat to the environment: the provision of essential services by local authorities for new developments or development itself. This issue is not limited to the Witpoort region but is a concern throughout Midrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, and other areas. Nationwide, large areas of land are being destroyed to accommodate the rapid growth of the population.