Original Research

Into the future: Donkergat Military Training Area and the Langebaan Ramsar site

Jan T. Marx, Ian Liebenberg
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 15, No 1 | a566 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v15i1.566 | © 2019 Jan T. Marx, Ian Liebenberg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 April 2018 | Published: 26 February 2019

About the author(s)

Jan T. Marx, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Ian Liebenberg, Centre for Military Studies and Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


Militaries need natural areas for offensive and defensive combat-readiness programmes. Here soldiers, war machinery and munitions are employed to prepare forces to execute warfighting tactics. Integration of environmental considerations into military activities is a growing global challenge. This study is based on a qualitative approach underpinned by an extensive literature review. The potential for the contribution of the military to a sensitive and diminishing wetland on the West Coast of South Africa (SA) is addressed. Donkergat Military Training Area (DMTA) in the Western Cape province, SA, provides diverse, seaborne training and warfighting facilities for the South African Special Forces (SASF), a specialist branch of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). This facility borders the Atlantic Ocean and Langebaan Lagoon, a Ramsar site (no. 398). One of only 15 island ecosystems on the southern African coastline, lies within the boundaries of the area. Saldanha Bay was identified as an economic development node by the national government. The 4 Special Forces Regiment (4 SFR) is thus obliged to contribute to the conservation of these environmental assets. Industrial development includes Operation Phakisa by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) that envisages expanded aquaculture practices in Saldanha Bay. Developers of fish and bivalve farms are allowed up-scaling aquaculture operations. These result in the loss of ecological attributes of the Langebaan Lagoon Wetland system. In the study, we recommend that parts of DMTA should be incorporated in the Ramsar definition for the Langebaan Lagoon Wetland system. Ecosystem indicators monitoring bird life, water and sediment quality, fish and rocky intertidal macrofauna in the DMTA waters should be intensified. The DMTA as a benchmark ecosystem in the Saldanha Bay area will facilitate environmentally sound planning amidst recent developments. Integrating sections of the Langebaan Lagoon that is part of the DMTA into the existing internationally recognised wetland area, the military can contribute significantly to wetland conservation. Management of these areas should be formulated in a Military Integrated Environmental Management (MIEM) plan by incorporating international guidelines.


wetlands; military; integrated environmental management


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