Category: <span>Climate Change</span>

13 October 2022 Media Release:  GRDM Disaster Management Section developed a GreenBook to plan for future climate change

Media Release:  GRDM Disaster Management Section developed a GreenBook to plan for future climate change

13 October 2022
For immediate release

As part of International Disaster Risk Reduction Day (IDRR), the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) focused on Climate Change adaptation. According to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, new risks will be prevented, and existing risks will be reduced. The document outlines seven targets and four priorities for action, including:

  • Understanding disaster risk;
  • Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk;
  • Investing in disaster reduction for resilience; and
  • Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

According to Gerhard Otto, GRDM Head of Disaster Management: “As part of a partnership with Santam and CSIR, GRDM recently launched a Greenbook, which is an open-access tool to support municipalities in planning climate resilient communities”.

“GRDM forms part of a national climate change adaptation initiative that has been launched in three provinces in South Africa,” said Otto.

The purpose of the Greenbook is to encourage resilient, sustainable, and liveable settlements by incorporating climate change adaptation into municipal development planning. The Greenbook provides an overview of current and likely future trends to the year 2050, related to settlement dynamics, climate hazards, and impacts that climate change will have on South African towns and cities. The tool is capable of linking every settlement risk profile to customizable adaptation actions also known as risk reduction initiatives that can be integrated into local strategies, programs and projects.

Furthermore, the GRDM recently updated its Disaster Risk Assessment and is able to use the tool to identify areas in need of urgent intervention. Not only does the tool provide an extensive overview of priority risks (current and future trends), it also provides disaster risk reduction initiatives recommendations to be considered and their likely impacts if implemented correctly.

In order to achieve the seven targets and the four priorities outlined in the Sendai Framework, the Greenbook has been launched. You can access it at http://greenbook.co.za/ .

All local municipalities in the region will be trained to incorporate climate change adaptation and promote climate resilient communities into their future development planning processes.

-End-

11 August 2022 Public Notice: Comment – Public Participation for the Garden Route Coastal Management Programme – Closing 20 August 2022

Public Notice: Public Participation for the Garden Route Coastal Management Programme

The Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme was reviewed and updated, in terms of Section 48 of the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Act (Act No 24 of 2008). As per the provisions of the ICM Act, any amendments that are made to the existing Coastal Management Programme must be subject to the public participation requirements in accordance with Chapter 4 of the Municipal Systems Act, prior to being Gazetted.

Notice is hereby given that the Draft Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme will be available for review and comment from 20 June 2022 to 20 August 2022. The draft Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme will be available for viewing at the following Places:

  1. Garden Route District Municipality, 54 York Street, George;
  2. Mossel Bay Public Library, 99 Marsh Street, Mossel Bay;
  3. Hessequa Public Library (Gouritsmond Library), 9 Kerk Street, Gouritz;
  4. Albertinia Public Library, 2 Horne Street, Albertinia;
  5. Still Bay Public Library, Main Road, Still Bay West;
  6. Riversdale Public Library, Van Den Berg Street, Riversdale;
  7. Hessequa Municipal Office, Mitchell Street, Riversdale;
  8. Plettenberg Bay Public Library; Saringa Way, New Horizons, Plettenberg Bay;
  9. Knysna Public Library, Memorial Square, 2 Main Street, Knysna;
  10. George Public Library, Corner Caledon and Courtenay Streets, Camphersdrift, George, and;
  11. Garden Route District Municipality website: www.gardenroute.gov.za/documents/

The District Municipality hereby invites comments from interested and affected parties on the draft reviewed Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme. Any comments and inputs submitted will be considered during the finalisation of the draft document for final approval and Gazetting.

Written submissions may be directed to the Municipal Manager using the following address:
Garden Route District Municipality, Municipal Manager, Monde Stratu, 54 York Street, George or Private Bag 12, George, 6530 or via email to info@gardenroute.gov.za on or before 20 August 2022.

Any person who is unable to write can submit their input verbally to the Council’s offices where they will be assisted by a staff member to put their comments in writing.

Enquiries can be directed to Dr Nina Viljoen at 044 803 1318 or e-mail to nina@gardenroute.gov.za.

Click here to download the Official Notice and Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme.

M Stratu
MUNICIPAL MANAGER
GARDEN ROUTE DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY

20 June 2022 Media Release: Environmental management and climate change under the spotlight at Garden Route Indaba

Media Release: Environmental Management and Climate change under the spotlight at Garden Route Indaba

For Immediate Release
20 June 2022

The Annual GREF/Garden Route Environmental Management and Climate Change Indaba will be hosted by the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) and the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) in Wilderness on 23 June 2022.

The theme for the event is:  Preparing the environment for a changing climate.”  The Garden Route has been feeling the brunt of climatic changes during the past few years, manifesting in the form of unprecedented wildfire disasters and prolonged drought, in especially, the northern parts of the district as well as severe flooding in some coastal areas in November last year. In order for the GRDM to better prepare the region for what lies ahead in terms of climate change, stakeholders will gather to share experiences and ideas.

The Annual Garden Route Environmental Management and Climate Change Indaba in George is an institutional arrangement, and it continues to provide a strong and valuable platform for cooperation and communication between all entities on matters central to sustainable environmental management and climate change.

Environmental management under the spotlight following the Durban flooding disaster

“For years to come Durban and the surrounding countryside will suffer from, and personally experience the deadly and destructive impact of the 2022 floods. Government, as well as landowners and resident communities, will do well to learn and act from what happened, and that set of impacts also apply to the flood-prone Southern Cape and areas elsewhere along the coast and the interior of South Africa,” says Cobus Meiring, programme director for the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) event.

“Besides substantial and traumatic loss of life in Durban, the damage to the environment and hard infrastructure is significant and will require enormous amounts of money and human resources to recover and rebuild from scratch.”

“History proved many times over that KwaZulu-Natal is prone to flooding and should have been better prepared to deal with these events as and when they occur, but this time around, nobody could have foreseen the severity of the recent flooding.”

Says Meiring: “In hindsight, however, there were several actions and interventions that could have made a significant difference in nurturing and better managing the surrounding natural infrastructure (rivers, wetlands, catchments and feeder streams) in order to soften the blow to the city and environment. Many lives could have been saved and billions of rand damage to infrastructure and the significant knock-on effect to the already battered economy could have been prevented.”

“There are obvious and practical ways to better prepare any city for flooding and dramatically reduce the impact of severe flooding, such as ensuring that stormwater systems are permanently clean and free of obstructions. More often than not the dire state of many of our rivers, streams, catchments and wetlands detrimentally reduce their ability to deal with floods and the critical function they deliver.”

“Perhaps because of the costs associated with eradication and clearing, the destructive effect of invasive alien plants (IAPs) on natural infrastructure must be understood.”

“River systems clogged up by IAPs cannot fulfil their basic role which is to channel rushing waters and prevent damage to riverbeds and riverbanks. When invasive alien plants replace indigenous vegetation, rivers cannot keep soil structures intact and assist with recovery following floods. Vast amounts of invasive plant biomass washed away by flooding rivers in Durban accumulated en masse against infrastructure such as bridges, stormwater channels and culverts, and in the process caused their total destruction resulting in even more severe downstream devastation.”

According to Meiring, the function and ability of wetland systems to dramatically reduce the impact of flooding waters are still misunderstood. “Their unfortunate destruction over time – through channelling and draining the water they retain and release to make way for development and farming – and invasive alien plant encroachment worsened the Durban flooding exponentially.”

“Thousands of tons of litter and plastic washed down by flooding rivers are sure signs that rivers and catchments are used as dumping sites, and in the process lead to riverbank and hard infrastructure destruction. By reducing illegal dumping this effect can be reduced,” says Meiring.

“Illegally built structures along riverbanks, steep slopes prone to landslides and structures in low-lying areas prone to flooding will increasingly become a death trap as the likelihood of severe flooding increases with changes in rainfall patterns and as the impact, driven by climate change, take effect.”

“Lastly, in high-risk areas, local and regional authorities should invest in early warning systems and evacuation procedures. It is also critical to consider awareness creation and public consultation to ensure that community safety becomes a bigger priority,” adds Meiring.

Feature image: Biomass from uprooted invasive alien plants in rivers and catchments during floods has a devastating impact on infrastructure and the environment.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Programme Director for the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) Climate Change Indaba Event
Cell: 083 626 7619
Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

 

17 June 2022 Media Release: World Day to combat desertification and drought: Blossom’s Emergency Pipeline Project

Media Release: World Day to combat desertification and drought: Blossom’s Emergency Pipeline Project

For Immediate Release
17 June 2022

The Greater Oudtshoorn region continues to be plagued by ongoing droughts, and alternatives have had to be found to ensure water security for the region. Since 2018, the water supply from the Raubenheimer dam was under severe pressure as the amount of water available from the dam, exceeded the amount that could be relied upon with a 98% degree of assurance. The future and ongoing supply of water in the Oudtshoorn area is severely constrained and drastic measures had to be planned to address the situation urgently.

Furthermore, the Vermaaks Rriver boreholes near Dysseldorp are used to maximum capacity and the Huis River, which supplies De Rust with water, is unreliable during the summer months, which holds negative implications for the Klein Karoo Rural Water Supply System (KKRWSS).

The Blossom’s Emergency Pipeline is a project that was started in 2001 to investigate and develop alternative and additional water supplies for the Oudtshoorn area. Nine deep, and three monitoring boreholes were drilled in the Blossom’s wellfield, which were monitored and tested for 13 years. The test was completed in 2014, and it was concluded that the boreholes yield enough groundwater to supplement the water supply from the Raubenheimer Dam. It was determined that 60l/s (5Ml/day) can be supplied from 5 existing boreholes within the C1 Blossoms wellfield. The test also found that the impact on the environment would be minimal.

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) approved a license for the total yield of 8 million m3/a for the ultimate full development of the Blossoms wellfield and gave the nod for the construction to commence. Originally, the project was intended as a medium to long-term bulk water augmentation intervention but given the current water crisis in the Oudtshoorn area, it will be implemented soon.

Funding for the current phases of the project, which started in February 2022, comes from the Municipal Disaster Relief Grant, which allocated a total of R47 million. To date, more than R150 million was spent, which was co-funded by DWS and Oudtshoorn Local Municipality. The current phase of the project is expected to be completed by March 2023.

ends

 

14 June 2022 Public Notice: Notice of Public Participation for the Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme

Public: Notice of Public Participation for the Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme

The Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme was reviewed and updated, in terms of Section 48 of the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Act (Act No 24 of 2008). As per the provisions of the ICM Act, any amendments that are made to the existing Coastal Management Programme must be subject to the public participation requirements in accordance with Chapter 4 of the Municipal Systems Act, prior to being Gazetted.

Notice is hereby given that the Draft Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme will be available for review and comment from 20 June 2022 to 01 August 2022. The draft Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme will be available for viewing at the following Places:

  • Garden Route District Municipality, 54 York Street, George;
  • Mossel Bay Public Library, 99 Marsh Street, Mossel Bay;
  • Hessequa Public Library (Gouritsmond Library), 9 Kerk Street, Gouritz;
  • Plettenberg Bay Library;
  • Knysna Library;
  • George Library; and
  • Garden Route District Municipality website.

The District Municipality hereby invites comments from interested and affected parties on the draft reviewed Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme. Any comments and inputs submitted will be considered during the finalisation of the draft document for final approval and Gazetting.

Written submissions may be directed to the Municipal Manager using the following address:
Garden Route District Municipality,
Municipal Manager, Monde Stratu,
54 York Street / Private Bag 12
George
6530 or/
E-mail: info@gardenroute.gov.za on or before 01 August 2022.

Any person who is unable to write can submit their input verbally to the Council’s offices where they will be assisted by a staff member to put their comments in writing. Enquiries can be directed to Dr Nina Viljoen at 044 803 1318 or e-mail nina@gardenroute.gov.za

M Stratu

MUNICIPAL MANAGER
GARDEN ROUTE DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY

Click here to download the Official Notice and Garden Route District Coastal Management Programme.

13 June 2022 Media Release: Garden Route Skills Mecca Focuses on Renewable Energy

Media Release: Garden Route Skills Mecca Focuses on Renewable Energy

For Immediate Release
13 June 2022

The fifth quarterly Garden Route Skills Mecca (GRSM) Forum was held virtually on in May 2022 and focused on renewable energy strategies for the Garden Route.

This follows a fruitful engagement Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) had with the Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority  (EWSETA) on Tuesday, 17 May 2022.  During the engagement, EWSETA expressed its desire to support renewable energy projects in the Garden Route, which is in line with its support of Just Energy Transition (JET),  Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), and the work done in South Africa by The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA).

EWSETA has a significant demand-based focus, and it is important for them to determine what the needs are of employers and businesses. They receive a limited skills levy income and need to partner with other agencies to address this challenge. This is why they’ve agreed soon enter into a memorandum of understanding with GRDM.

During his opening remarks, the GRSM Forum chairperson, Ald. De Vries remarked that renewable energy is gaining momentum as countries around the world are increasingly understanding the benefits it offers.

During the forum, Mr. Warrick Pierce, Technical Leader on Energy Systems Modeling at the Energy Centre of CSIR, presented the Draft Municipal Electricity Master Plan for the GRDM. The Draft document was funded by GIZ and co-funded by the CSIR and is considered to be a mini Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

Mr. Pierce noted that the plan looks at different possible energy futures and the employment opportunities it may hold. Furthermore, the plan’s focus is twofold as it looks at each municipality individually in the region and the Garden Route as a whole to achieve optimisation.

To draft plan addresses issues of future demand usage and that municipalities need to know their customers – their past behaviors towards energy and how this is changing in terms of self-generation.  There seems to be clear indication that Solar PV is the priority option for the Garden Route to consider. The Draft Energy Master Plan will be tabled to the GRDM Council this month for adoption and a media release about it will be issued.

The final presentation was done by Kirsten Freimann, from GIZ, who is the Head of Project: Career Path Development for Employment (CPD4E), which is a new 3-year program that started in June.

The program aims to address two major concerns identified by GIZ, which are the economic recession and the high youth unemployment rate plaguing South Africa. With the help of the Swiss Development Agency, The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Government was able to raise €10.5 million for the project.

CPDE4E strives to improve the employability of the youth by unlocking employment potentials by supporting entrepreneurship and SME development in township economies, as well as (ecologic) industrial parks.

The transition from learning to earning will be done by matching soft skills with entrepreneurship training with specific measures in place for girls and women.

Demand-driven TVET/ skills development will improve delivery capacities, through lecturers, in-company mentors, short skills programs, new occupational profiles, and curricula development. It is anticipated that it will strengthen private sector involvement in agile training interventions. This could lead to job creation and meeting demands.

13 January 2022 Weather Advisory for the Western Cape and Namaqualand Region

13 January 2022

Weather Advisory for the Western Cape and Namaqualand Region

Legal notice:
“This warning from SA Weather Service must be communicated as received and may not be altered under any circumstance.
It must be forwarded or communicated in its entirety and no portion hereof may be replicated or copied and distributed.”

Alert level Affected Municipalities Valid from (SAST) Valid to (SAST)
Advisory Breede Valley, City of Cape Town, Drakenstein, Kannaland, Knysna, Laingsburg, Langeberg, Oudtshoorn, Prince Albert, Stellenbosch, Witzenberg 13/01/22 01h00 17/01/22 00h00

Discussion: Very hot conditions will result from predominantly northerly wind flow over the interior parts of the Western Cape. Temperatures reaching 40 and above is likely to occur.

Impact: In an extremely hot environment, the most serious health and safety concern is heatstroke. Heatstroke can be fatal if medical attention is not available immediately.

Instruction: Avoid prolonged direct exposure to the sun as far as possible and drink plenty of water. Limit strenuous outdoor activities, find shade and stay hydrated. Never leave kids in the car unattended. Make sure your animals have access to enough water.

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN WEATHER SERVICE
Cape Town Weather Office
2nd Floor: Oval Office Park
Cape Town Int airport
Freight Road
Matroosfontein
Cape Town

 

13 July 2021 Media Release: Development of a strategic framework for an alien and invasive biomass economy

Media Release: Development of a strategic framework for an alien and invasive biomass economy

For Immediate Release
13 July 2021

Announcement and invitation to participate: Development of a strategic framework for an alien and invasive biomass economy in RSA 

A new initiative to develop a strategic framework for an alien and invasive biomass economy was initiated in June. The purpose of the initiative is to identify and unlock the opportunities of an invasive and alien biomass economy in South Africa that targets problematic alien and invasive woody biomass through ecosystem rehabilitation.

The clearing of alien and invasive woody biomass provides opportunities for developing green value chains that will support the restoration of ecosystems for climate change adaptation and mitigation, catalyse private sector financing and provide energy alternatives, amongst other uses. The initiative will support the uptake of an economy around the biomass use with the aim to support the creation of jobs.

“Every day, thousands of South Africans set out to the countryside, town and city perimeters to harvest significant amounts of invasive alien plant biomass in order to transform it into something useful which can be marketed and sold on any scale and format, or to simply utilise as firewood at their households,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“But exactly how big is the industry dependent on invasive alien, as well as invasive but indigenous bush encroachment biomass in South Africa? How deep and valuable is the market for products derived from these plants and trees? How do we go about giving the alien and invasive biomass industry a voice and assist it in growing in order to be more sustainable and to make an even more meaningful contribution to the fast-emerging green, circular and climate-ready economy.”

“To get a better understanding of these questions, SCLI, with support from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) and its partners, is embarking on a process aimed at developing a strategic framework for the purpose of advancing the biomass industry in South Africa. The ultimate aim is to come up with a strategic framework and action plan, and a roadmap to the establishment of a National Biomass Industry Platform in the country,” says Meiring.

SCLI invites all who work directly and indirectly with invasive alien plant/tree material to support the initiative and join the series of national dialogues on the biomass economy.

Stakeholders in the biomass economy value-chain include entities or individuals involved in related research, the biomass-to-energy industry, timber manufacturers for the building and woodwork industries, companies manufacturing wood chips and shavings for example, for the poultry industry, manufacturers of sawdust, and companies producing charcoal from wattle and other types of invasive infestations. Businesses in the biochar, industrial-scale composting, harvesting equipment and transport services sectors are all encouraged to join in and provide critical input within the next few months, seeing that the baseline study will be concluded in October 2021.

Other stakeholders include South Africa’s national, regional and local authorities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), water boards, water catchment agencies, mining companies, agricultural bodies and the forestry industry.

“Groups and individuals are encouraged to list their interests and concerns, make suggestions and make their voices heard,” says Meiring.

As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, the standard public participation processes, including extensive face-to-face interaction and meetings countrywide used to develop a strategic framework such as the biomass industry is just not feasible and for this purpose, a series of virtual dialogues is planned for those interested. The virtual dialogues will take place between August and September.

The final topics/themes for virtual participation by interested and affected parties will be announced in due course and will be made available to all relevant stakeholders who are registered on the biomass economy strategic framework database.

To register as a stakeholder/participant, interested or affected party, please send an email with your full contact details to Louise Mare, email: louisamare@gmail.com or contact her by sending a WhatsApp message to 082 078 1629 during office hours.

For more information, please follow the link: https://www.scli.org.za/announcement-and-invitation-to-participate/

Photo/s:

High-volume manufacturers, industrial-scale companies, and small-scale businesses in the invasive alien plant biomass value chain are invited to contact the biomass economy study group through SCLI to register on the database for further engagement. Stakeholders can include invasive alien plant contractors, entrepreneurs creating products by making use of invasive alien biomass as base material, and landowners making available biomass for biomass harvesting on their land, be that indigenous or to reduce bush encroachment. (Photo: SCLI) 

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring, Chairperson, Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) 

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

25 January 2021 Media Release: Climate Change likely to blindside RSA on the back of Covid-19

Media Release: Climate Change likely to blindside RSA on the back of Covid-19

For immediate release
25 January 2021

“Disaster management is the name of the game going forward in a rapidly changing world. In as much as COVID-19 is a wake-up call to the South African Government’s ability to deal with the pandemic, affecting everyday life in complicated layers, climate change will have a much deeper-cutting and lasting effect. Climate change will most likely blindside countries such as South Africa if we fail to heed the warning signs that are already there for all to see,” says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

“Regional natural disasters, such as persistent drought and tropical storms in neighbouring countries, have brought the implications of climate change to South Africa’s doorstep.”

“More focused public awareness efforts, education and re-directing public finances, coupled with better planning and more advanced abilities to proactively deal with natural disasters, –including the way we nurture and protect our environment – are vital for those living in South Africa.”

“Policy failure, or the failure to implement sound existing policies due to a lack of political will or the competence to do so, rather than an absolute lack of resources, will have consequences that will haunt South Africa in generations to come. Most likely the consequences will include reduced quality of life for most, increased levels of poverty and social unrest, and the inability to bounce back from climate-change-induced natural disasters imposed upon us by wildfires, floods and droughts,” says Meiring.

“In recent times, the northern parts of Mozambique, including the city of Beira, were completely obliterated by tropical Cyclone Idai. The very same region is now again suffering the devastating effects of Cyclone Eloise, without having recovered from the devastation of Cyclone Idai some three years ago.”

“In addition to the effects of a changing climate on northern Mozambique, the very same region is becoming inhospitable through extremely violent political instability, displacing some 500 000 people, who have no choice but to migrate elsewhere fast if they are to physically survive another year.”

“RSA, despite experiencing a sharp and constant decline in governmental management capacity and the resultant general socio-economic decay, coupled with the devastation of COVID-19 that will set back potential economic revival by decades, South Africa remains the ultimate safe haven for displaced, destitute and desperate refugees from many Sub-Saharan countries, most notably from neighbouring Zimbabwe and Mozambique.”

“Already grappling with service delivery and skyrocketing unemployment, South Africa can ill afford to accommodate millions of people who have no choice but to leave their country of origin because of the realities brought about by climate change.”

“Dealing with COVID-19 no doubt draws away attention and resources in government’s response and ability to focus on dealing with climate change. However, we simply have to wake up to the bigger challenge posed by a changing climate that is already on our doorstep and shouting to be heard,” warns Meiring.

“Environmental management in the context of climate change, and the management of precious natural resources, such as water and agricultural capacity to adapt and feed a fast-growing nation, must take centre stage if South Africa is to survive intact. Planning and sensible political leadership, based on sound policy, is what is required.”

Based in George, the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a public platform for climate change and adaptation. The forum is supported by the Disaster Management Centre of the Garden Route District Municipality.

Feature Photo: Informal settlement, Garden Route

“Regional natural disasters, such as persistent drought and tropical storms in neighbouring countries, have brought the implications of climate change to South Africa’s doorstep, and fast-growing populations in new and expanding informal settlements are testimony to that, posing a much bigger political and socio-economic challenge than COVID-19,” says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).  (Photo: Cobus Meiring)

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) Secretariat

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

26 October 2020 Media Release: California steaming whilst Knysna and Bitou are reloading for wildfire round number two

Media Release: California steaming whilst Knysna and Bitou are reloading for wildfire round number two

For Immediate Release
26 October 2020

“With world news headlines dominated by COVID-19 and lockdown-related matters, coinciding with heated American politics and current affairs, the largest wildfire disaster in recorded American history keeps raging on in California and Western America, and so despite of its severe impact, it hardly makes the headlines,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

According to the latest media reports, critical fire weather remains in effect across much of Northern California, with firefighters on high alert for the possibility of new fast-moving wildfires. Some media reports refer to the 2020 wildfire season as the first ‘gigafire’ in modern history.

Says Meiring, “In comparison to the wildfire disasters that affected the Southern and Western Cape over the past three years, the size and scale of the Western American wildfire theatre is simply staggering. To date, well over two million hectares have been reduced to ashes, and well over 9 000 dwellings and structures destroyed, including untold damage to grid infrastructure, the natural environment and productive agricultural land, with no clear end in sight yet.”

“Just like in South Africa, climate change has set the perfect platform for intense wildfires across the American West over past decades.”

“A marked increase in American, and South African, day and night temperatures, changes in rainfall and snow patterns, shifts in plant communities, stronger winds and other climate-change-related factors all contribute to setting the scene for ever more severe wildfires over much larger areas than ever before.”

Knysna burnt landscape with flower

“The only reason Southern and Western Cape communities have not suffered from severe wildfire disasters in recent times is because much of the flammable invasive alien plant material, accredited for providing the fuel for intense and out-of-control wildfires, has been destroyed by recent fires and is only now maturing to sufficient mass.”

“In mitigation of environmental conditions conducive to out-of-control wildfires, the persistent drought experienced during the past decade has largely been broken by the return of favourable rains in most parts, and, as a result, flammable material is currently not as dry as it were during the harsh drought in many parts. The rapid suppression of wildfires also allowed biomass to grow and accumulate over time.”

“Monitoring the present-day aggressive regrowth patterns of invasive alien plants along known fire paths by SCLI in the Southern Cape, following the 2017 and 2018 wildfire disasters, puts justice to the term ‘Knysna reloaded’.”

“In as much SCLI and many landowners have gone to great lengths to draw up and implement Invasive Alien Plant Control Plans to eradicate and control invasive alien plants on private  land, unwanted biomass, potentially providing the fuel for a recurrence of the 2017 and 2018 Garden Route wildfire disasters, is clearly visible and growing rapidly on the landscape,” warns Meiring.

He says funding streams generated to assist landowners in dealing with invasive alien plants in the aftermath of the Knysna fires have since been diverted in order to serve COVID-19 relief efforts. Landowners now have to take full responsibility for controlling what grows on their land. They have little choice but to adhere to strict environmental management guidelines governing invasive plant control and eradication or face stringent penalties issued by environmental management authorities such as the Green Scorpions.

In an all-out effort to create more wild spaces and to enlarge the conservation footprint of the Southern Cape through the rehabilitation of regional river systems, SCLI and private landowners are collaborating to create conservation corridors linking the Outeniqua Mountains with the Indian Ocean. This collaboration is of particular importance in the rural-urban interface where most invasive alien plants are present and the most significant wildfire damage is recorded.

For more information on how to deal with invasive alien plants on their land, landowners can visit the SCLI website at http://www.scli.org.za.

“Many Knysna and Plettenberg Bay landowners are setting the scene for a repeat of the intense 2017 wildfire disaster by allowing the large-scale return of invasive alien plants on the landscape. All that is required for the next fire disaster is the right climate conditions, sufficient fuel loads and a spark,” says Cobus Meiring of SCLI.

** The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) is a public platform and think tank for landowners and land managers with an interest in invasive alien plant management, water stewardship and land management. SCLI is supported by the Table Mountain Fund (TMF), a subsidiary of WWF SA. SCLI also manages the Secretariat of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Chairperson of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI)

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za