Wednesday, 1 November 2017, The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) and the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), which are National Research Facilities managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF), signed a three-year Memorandum of Agreement to implement the Integrated Environmental Management Plan (IEMP) for the SKA project in South Africa.

 

The IEMP is the result of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the SKA project conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and commissioned by the Department of Environmental Affairs. The SKA project in South Africa, being built in the Karoo, is managed by SARAO. Dr Rob Adam, Managing Director of SARAO, says: “This agreement will enable our site for radio astronomy research to become a site for earth observation research too.”

 

The IEMP provides recommendations on the way in which the SKA radio telescope will be constructed and operated within the environment and the measures that will be taken to mitigate its environmental impact and enhance its environmental benefit. The IEMP is a living document adapted every five years according to changing requirements of the region itself and its users. The IEMP includes a monitoring and auditing programme that will be reassessed periodically to allow for an adaptive and dynamic environmental monitoring framework.

 

The 2007, 2009 and 2011 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports and respective Environmental Management Plans can be accessed at http://www.ska.ac.za/about/strategic-environmental-assessment/

 

The Internal Memorandum of Agreement includes several undertakings and deliverables agreed upon by SARAO and SAEON. The agreement affects approximately 130,000 hectares of land in the Karoo area and the process of buying up land to accommodate the core area of the SKA has been concluded. Negotiations are underway to enter servitude agreements with landowners along the 3 spiral arms that stretches out from this core area.

 

The services to be provided by SAEON to SKA SA in terms of the agreement will include, among others:

Undertaking an ecology, biodiversity and surface water (aquatic) site walk-through for SKA1_MID; developing an Ecological and Aquatic Management Plan for the SKA site based on the ecological and aquatic walk-through-findings; developing a Revegetation and Rehabilitation Plan and a Plant Rescue and Protection Plan for SKA1_MID; conducting an Environmental Baseline Study on the SKA site and the three spiral arms; provide advice to the Land Management Authority on preparing a motivation for the establishment of the SKA site as a Protected area; advising on the Land Management Plan to be developed by the Land Management Authority; and generating and distributing reports on the Land-Use Change Impacts on the SKA site.


The recently appointed Deputy CEO of the National Research Foundation, Dr Clifford Nxomani, who is responsible for the National Research Facilities says: “It is strategic alignments like this one that create new opportunities for integrative science and provide new platforms for the training of the next generation of scientists.”

 

For more information, contact Lorenzo Raynard, SKA SA Head of Communication and Stakeholder Relations on +27 21 506 7319 or +27 71 454 0658, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.