Dr James Cullis – Investing in Ecological Infrastructure
On 27 January 2021, Dr James Cullis from Zutari presented to the WC Branch on the topic of ecological infrastructure (EI). He noted that South Africa has a strong heritage of valuing EI. EI has been elevated to public attention by the Working for Water programs, implemented by the then Department of Water Affairs in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.These programs saw the betterment of catchment areas through the removal of thirsty alien vegetation, thus allowing for more water to be available from the catchment areas.
He challenged the audience to think differently about the value that EI provides, and how we could approach the design of our conventional civil infrastructure to support EI and thus realise a better outcome on our projects. Dr Cullis spoke specifically about EI in the water resources field, but noted that this approach would be as applicable for other expertise areas, such as ports and coastal, roads, water treatment, air quality and building design, to name a few. The question of ownership of ecological infrastructure and who should pay for it, is a challenge which requires much consultation and interaction. Ultimately, the value of ecological infrastructure should be identified early, and the inclusion of ecological infrastructure in concept and design stages should be mandated at planning stage.