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Restoring wetlands to secure water supply
A high water dependency
Mondi, an integrated paper and packaging producer, owns plantations in South Africa, a part of the world where fresh water is a scarce resource and where an estimated 6 million people do not have access to sufficient potable water to satisfy their needs. Furthermore, an estimated 55% of South Africa’s wetlands to date have been significantly damaged due to poorly managed agriculture and commercial forestry; mining, urban development, pollution, dam building, erosion and fire. Because Mondi’s commercial activities (commercial forests and processing plants) use significant volumes of water, it relies on healthy wetlands and riparian zones.
Towards securing water availability – restoration and education
Mondi is the principal sponsor of the Mondi Wetlands Programme (MWP), a partnership between Mondi and South Africa’s two largest NGO conservation organizations (WWF South Africa and the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) together with the Mazda Wildlife Fund. The program is making an important contribution to the protection and rehabilitation of wetlands and riparian areas in South Africa. Through WWF, it has achieved international recognition for success in bringing about social change that encourages wetland users and owners to manage their wetland resources in a more environmentally relevant manner. It primarily does so by using a number of strategies:
Giving up productive forestry to help recovery of freshwater resources and biodiversity
Policy work and lobbying
Research-based management tools and resources
Training and on-the-ground support
With the support of the MWP, Mondi is assessing the health of all significant wetlands on land it manages, and strengthening its wetland sustainable practices. It has almost completed the process of removing all its commercial trees on, or close to, riparian or wetland areas, which encourages the recovery of natural freshwater resources and associated biodiversity. This has involved the loss of approximately 5% of Mondi’s productive forestry land at an opportunity cost of around 200,000 tons of wood a year.
These responsible actions make a substantial contribution to the maintenance of functioning freshwater systems and biodiversity in South Africa. The costs form part of Mondi’s social and environmental license to operate and its commitment to downstream communities.