Joburg residents use tech to preserve suburb

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Johannesburg MMC for environment and infrastructure services, councillor Mpho Moerane.
Johannesburg MMC for environment and infrastructure services, councillor Mpho Moerane.

Residents of Melrose North and Birdhaven in Johannesburg are turning to digital conservation to protect their environment, as well as the James and Ethel Gray Park located in the area.

The James and Ethel Gray Park Foundation (JEGPF), which oversees the local park and its surroundings, commemorated World Environment Day on Friday, hailing the use of technology in environmental projects.

The group hopes to support the sustainability of the 36-hectare park through the use of multiple technology solutions.

It says ICT has been a critical success factor for its projects to date, but it will now be extending the use of technology in its operations.

Sunil Geness, chairperson of the foundation, comments: “The prospect of leveraging digital conservation, therefore, provides a great opportunity for the James and Ethel Gray Park to flourish in the future.

“The foundation is keen to explore the use of design thinking and computer-based decision support systems (DSSs) which have been improving the quality and transparency of decision-making in natural resource management globally.”

According to Geness, DSSs will lend “support to solve ill-structured decisions by integrating database management systems with analytical and operational research models, graphic display, tabular reporting capabilities, and the expert knowledge of scientists, managers and decision-makers to assist in solving specific problems.”

Further, he says the success in using digital technologies has been underpinned “by an extensive, informative and interactive Web site in conjunction with the use of social media and video collaboration tools like Zoom, to engage with stakeholders both locally and globally, prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in South Africa.”

In statement, the JEGPF says ICTs “will assist the foundation to support information collection and management, education and advocacy programmes, analysis, monitoring and evaluation, as well as disaster management in the park.”

Moreover, it says deploying digital conservation will be a turning point for the area, as it is also looking at the use of remote sensors, mobile terminals, databases, evaluation tools, RFID, artificial Intelligence technology and drone technology.

“As such, the foundation is seeking collaborations and partnerships with ICT and mobile companies to provide broadband access within the park, as well as cloud-based offerings and applications which support digital conservation and enable the identification of endangered as well as invasive species by park visitors,” says Geness.

The JEGPF says in the past 10 months, it has steadily made progress towards the improvement of the park’s infrastructure, upkeep and protection.

“The signature programmes implemented include the installation of Cochrane ClearVu perimeter fencing, the provision of regular park guarding, rehabilitation of the park dam as well as regular park clean-ups, grass cutting, litter cleaning and waste-removal, which has served to augment the Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo scheduled maintenance programme,” it says.

City of Johannesburg member of the mayoral committee for environment and infrastructure services, councillor Mpho Moerane, who also took part in marking World Environment Day, is supportive of the initiative.

“The work undertaken by organisations like the James and Ethel Gray Park Foundation is vital to the utility, safety and sustainability of our diverse biodiversity, and should be commended and supported by all stakeholders,” he says.

“This year’s World Environment Day is celebrated under the theme ‘biodiversity’ to make a plea for urgent action to protect biodiversity. It is also to put the spotlight on nature, with the emphasis on restoring the relationship between humans and nature.”

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