Second International Conference on Management of Natural Resources, Sustainable Development and Ecological Hazard
15 - 17 December 2009
Western Cape, South Africa
The second international conference on the Management of Natural Resources, Sustainable Development and Ecological Hazards (Ravage of the Planet) recently took place in the Western Cape area of South Africa.
The meeting was co-sponsored the Wessex Institute of Technology and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (SCIR) of South Africa, in collaboration with the University of Siena, Italy.
The SCIR was represented by Dr Nebo Jovanovic and the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT) by Professor Carlos A. Brebbia. The Co-Chairman was Professor Enzo Tiezzi of the University of Siena, Italy.
Like the first conference held in Patagonia, Argentina, the meeting was prompted by the need to take stock of the continued destruction of our planet to formulate a constructive programme and policies for the immediate future.
The success of the first conference led to the reconvening of the meeting in Africa which is a vibrant continent of invaluable related human resources. The engagement of Africa in global change issues culminated in the World Summit on Sustainable Development that took place in Johannesburg.
In the strive for sustainable development, Africa faces challenges like water scarcity to sanitation, energy supplies transfer of renewable technologies, food security, health issues with a particular focus on children, rapid urbanisation and housing strategies, losses of biodiversity, and vulnerability to climate change.
Thanks to its geographical position spanning two hemispheres and nearly all climatic zones, low carbon emissions, pristine ecosystems and endemic biodiversity systems, Africa provides excellent opportunities for environmental research, earth and space observations, as well as socio-economic aspects of sustainability science.
The conference attracted researchers and professionals involved in ecosystems and environmental problems as well as policy makers, social and political scientists and experts in a wide variety of topics. This interaction is essential to incentivize trans-disciplinary discussion with a view to finding solutions that benefit society as a whole.
The meeting was opened by Professor Carlos Brebbia, who explained the importance of this conference for the type of collaboration work being carried out at WIT, an institution dedicated to act as a mechanism for transfer of knowledge between academia, industry and society as a whole. The Institute Carlos explained, is increasingly focused on the importance of physical scientists being able to communicate with their colleagues in the humanities.
The other important initiative of WIT has been the digitisation of all its publications. They cover all the work presented at WIT conferences as well as other books and are rapidly available and distributed all over the world.
Professor Brebbia ended by inviting the participants to visit the institute and seek ways of collaborating with WIT.
Nebo then spoke about the type of work done by the CSIR in the field of pollution and water resources and then introduced the keynote speaker, Dr Joy Leaner.
Dr Joy Leaner is the head of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning at CSIR and a specialist in water pollution and waves. Another issue of interest to CSIR – she explained - is to reduce the CO2 footprint.
Her lecture dealt with Environmental Management in the Western Cape, and discussed the direction and aims of the work of her Department.
CSIR monitors the air and water quality in the Cape region by a series of stations. The intention is to ensure that the thresholds are not breached.
Joy ended her presentation by reminding the audience of the need to take action before it is too late, with the words of Joel Barker;
“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world”
Joy’s research points out the fact that it is not sufficient to apply new solutions to an environmental problem but that it is also necessary to develop a different framework of research.
The first invited lecture was given by Professor Ulo Mander from the School of Geography of the University of Tartu in Estonia, on the topic of “Non-profit Organisations for sustainable development at country, regional and civil society level”. This – Ulo said – is one of the most essential fundamental questions as of the function and development of societies. The role of Non-profit organisations in society is a huge question, and they can act in the interests of sustainable development at several levels. In Estonia, the contribution to the development of civil society has to be brought into focus; Estonia has a relatively well-developed, strong and inexpensive civil society and community of non-profit organisations.
Other invited papers were as follows;
- ‘Modelling the saltwater intrusion in the low-lying catchment of the southern Venice Lagoon, Italy’ by G Gambolati, University of Padova, Italy
- ‘Global distributed energy systems’ by A Bejan, Duke University, USA
- ‘Approach to Lithuanian energy supply state assessment’ by A Augustis, Lithuanian Energy Institute, Lithuania
- ‘The Ecological Footprint Depth: preliminary consideration for national accounting’ by Enzo Tiezzi, University of Siena, Italy, presented by the co-author Valentina Niccolucci
A special session was organised dealing with water problems related to South Africa. It consisted of the following presentations:
- ‘An overview of the salinization problem in the Berg river catchment (South Africa)’
- ‘A comparative analysis of the PRMS and J2000 hydrological models applied to the Sandspruit Catchment (Western Cape, South Africa)’
- ‘An assessment of the Atlantis artificial recharge water supply scheme (Western Cape, South Africa)’
- ‘An Excel-based index (PestEX) for environmental mobility of pesticides in relation to water resources’
- ‘In-situ nitrate removal from groundwater to supply rural communities: experimental work and modelling’
There were many opportunities for the delegates to talk to each other outside the conference sessions. They took place during coffee breaks, and at the lunches organised by WIT. There was also a welcome drink enjoyed at the end of the first day, on the harbour where they had occasion to sample some of the numerous cocktails for which the seaside bars in the region are renowned.
The conference dinner took place in the unusual setting of one of the old farms in the Stellenbosch region converted now into a restaurant offering a series of attractions, including live music and Zulu dancing. It contained a small zoo where a series of South African indigenous animals are displayed, including cheetahs. The menu also consisted of a wide variety of dishes, with a few Afrikaans specialities as well as more conventional dishes. The wines - for which the Stellenbosch district is famous - were of excellent quality. At end of the evening, Carlos thanked the delegates for coming to the banquet and gave them a souvenir in his name and that of his Co-Chair, Nebo Jovanovic, to remind them of the pleasant occasion.
A technical excursion was organised at the end of the conference to the South Africa Electricity Company Hydroelectric Power Station Palmiet. They have there a plant that can operate to generate energy or to pump water during off-peak hours in order to replenish the reservoir. This dual function helps to satisfy the peak demands of the grid, i.e. it generates power at the right moment. The delegates were given a tour of the facilities and shown the actual turbines in operation which were two generating and pumping Francis motors on a vertical axis.
The Palmiet Hydroelectric plant is located in an ecological area with unique indigenous plants. The reservoir is located at the top of mountain range and generates power for Cape Town and the national grid while preserving the ecosystem.
The visit was a great success and the delegates were delighted with the excellent guided tour and the opportunity of seeing not only an interesting project but also one located in an area of outstanding beauty.
Publication of Papers
Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary as Volume 127 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (On-line ISSN: 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at http://library.witpress.com