The appropriate management of South Africa's wetlands is critical in contributing to the sustainability of its water resources for the benefit of its people and its economy. Achieving this requires a coordinated sectoral approach, using the best available science. The National Wetlands Indaba (NWI) is an annual event that has been held since 1996. It started when a small group of wetland practitioners recognized the importance of bringing together all people involved in wetland related matters, the aim being to discuss issues, share experiences and explore solutions, with the vision of ensuring a more secure water resource in South Africa through appropriate wetlands management.

This first gathering consisted of no more than 15 people. It is from the initiative of this first meeting that national programmes such as the Working for Wetlands programme, currently being managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), came in to existence. It is also through the activities of these and other people that the current state of wetland awareness came to be. This humble and small beginning has since developed into a major event that is now attended by more than 200 delegates.

The National Wetlands Indaba caters for multiple disciplines and its attendees include academics and researchers, private environmental consultants, provincial and national conservation authorities, Water Boards, representatives from three spheres of government, non-government organizations, students, private citizens, business and industry.

The objective of the National Wetlands Indaba is to provide an open platform for reporting and discussion of various topics that will guide the future approach towards wetland management in South Africa. Interactions are in the form of presentations, formal discussions during break away groups and also informal discussions amongst the participants. There is a strong focus on skills and capacity development of young scientists through interactive workshops, training sessions and field trips.

Decision-makers who direct various wetland management programmes and projects also attend the National Wetlands Indaba, and where appropriate, the outcomes of these discussions are incorporated into their activities. The Indaba aims to facilitate a coordinated approach to wetland management, sustainable use and skills development with engagement between the governmental, private, academic and NGO sectors.

Keynote speaker at the 2018 Indaba, Prof Brian Timms, University of NSW, Australia

I am supposedly retired, but am being recycled as a visiting professorial fellow at the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW. Fifty three years ago I commenced on zooplankton, morphed into a benthologist and a salty limnologist, all the while with an eye on the influence of geomorphology on lake ecology. In fact, I have written my only book on Lake Geomorphology. For the last 30 years I have concentrated my research efforts on temporary waters in semiarid and arid Australia, particularly the Paroo catchment north-west of New South Wales. There I stumbled upon a highly diverse array of water bodies, ranging from salt lakes of various salinities, episodic freshwater lakes and clay pans, to various types of vegetated swamps and gnammas (rock holes). I am fascinated by medium term changes in these water bodies, such as differences between wet (La Nina) years and dry (El Nino) years and the effect of non-seasonal rains. As a side issue, and more encompassing right across inland Australia, I became interested in the large branchiopods and have described about 50 new species and written keys of most groups.

We look forward to a most rewarding conference in this fascinating part of South Africa.


Doug Harebottle
National Wetlands Indaba 2018