Category: <span>Environmental Management</span>

02 February 2022 Media Release: Garden Route District Municipality Once Again Celebrating World Wetlands Day on 02 February

Garden Route District Municipality Once Again Celebrating World Wetlands Day on 02 February

For immediate release
2 February 2022

Today, 2 of February 2022, the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) is once again celebrating the World Wetlands Day. World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually and aims to raise awareness globally about the vital role of wetlands for humans and the entire world’s eco-system.

A significant number of wetlands can be found throughout the Garden Route, including one protected under the Ramsar Convention. The internationally known Wilderness Lakes Ramsar Site falls within the Garden Route National Park, covering an area of 1 300 hectares and includes estuarine lakes of Rondevlei, Langvlei and Eilandvlei, the Serpentine channel, and a dune system. A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention; an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The treaty provides for national action and international cooperation to conserve wetlands and to use their resources in a sustainable manner.

The wetlands within the Garden Route are considered to be high-value ecological infrastructure. They provide vital habitat for flora and fauna, which forms part of a larger critical ecosystem to the environment. These include flood attenuation, water filtration, erosion control and water storage (regulatory services), as well as food provision, supply of raw materials and clean drinking water (provisioning services). The wetlands within the municipal boundaries also play a pivotal role in disaster risk management, as well as reducing the impacts of climate change.

Dr Nina Viljoen, Head of Environmental Management at GRDM said: “Within the Garden Route however, a significant number of the wetlands are under threat, or have already been lost. This is largely due to historical degradation, deliberate draining of wetlands to make way for development and agriculture, inappropriate development within the close proximity to the wetlands, poorly regulated agricultural practices, contamination through chemical, sewage, effluent and stormwater seeps, sedimentation, water abstraction and the spread of invasive alien plants”.In light of this, Dr Viljoen added that there is an urgent need to increase awareness of wetland importance and to incorporate natural wetland resource considerations into municipal governance mechanisms and planning. She emphasised: “Careful management, and investing in the maintenance of healthy wetlands, as well as the rehabilitation and restoration of damaged or degraded wetlands, are needed. This will ensure the continued provision of these vital ecosystem services to the municipality”.

GRDM Wetlands Strategy (2017-2022)

The GRDM developed a Wetlands Strategy (2017-2022) in collaboration with, and support from, the Local Action for Biodiversity: Wetlands South Africa (LAB: Wetlands SA) programme, and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, Africa Secretariat (ICLEI AS). Through the development of this Strategy, gaps in the support of wetland management within the district were identified, and improved wetland management strategies were therefore incorporated within the Strategy.

The GRDM Disaster Risk Assessment (2020-2021)

The GRDM recognises that wetlands are of immense value, especially when it comes to disaster risk reduction.  According to a GRDM Disaster Risk Assessment (2020-2021), wetlands have the ability to contribute towards disaster risk reduction by means of its flood attenuation, water filtration and related water security functions. These functions are also extremely important in climate change adaptation, and needs to be conserved in order to assist in the mitigation of future climate change risks. The GRDM therefore seeks to enhance the conservation and management of the districts’ natural wetland resources. This is done by integrating biodiversity issues into its local government support, planning and decision-making processes.

As part of its disaster risk assessment, the GRDM identified a high flood risk in the coastal and lagoon areas of the district, particularly during the winter months. This impact is worsened by increasingly degraded wetlands.

According to the GRDM Climate Change Report (2018), most wetlands are classified as either ‘moderately modified’ (between 25% and 75% of the wetland land cover is natural) or ‘heavily to critically modified’ (less than 25% of the wetland land cover is natural).  Wetlands within the district therefore face a significant number of threats, all of which have the ability to either destroy the wetland entirely, or severely compromise function and provision of ecosystem services.

In order to conserve wetlands in the Garden Route, and to reduce the number of threats they are facing, Dr Viljoen said: “The GRDM, its local municipalities within its area of jurisdiction, as well as all the stakeholders, need to adapt to a ‘new normal’. The complex interactions between society and wetland ecosystems need to be approached in an integrated way, she added”.

It is essential to increase the monitoring and regulation of new environmental authorisation applications that will impact wetlands. Through this, sustainability projects will be identified that will benefit the neighboring communities to identify community upliftment opportunities and products/services for sustainable wetland use. This will allow the prioritisation of wetlands and the implementation of innovative and internationally-used approaches to help reach sustainability goals and objectives. It is essential that the municipalities within the Garden Route district compile the best available spatial information on wetlands for inclusion in their Spatial Development Frameworks (SDF’s), as well as to include wetland management within their Integrated Development Plans (IDP’s).

The following related GRDM documents can be accessed on its website:

ENDS

31 January 2022 Media Release: Floods, tourists and the Garden Route environment

MEDIA RELEASE: Floods, tourists and the Garden Route environment

For Immediate Release
12 January 2022

“The very real threat of the renewed lockdown and travel restrictions with the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in South Africa over December 2021 did not materialise. With golden beaches, lakes and rivers open for use after closure in the summer of 2020, tourists flocked to the Garden Route in their thousands,” says Cobus Meiring, convener of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

Just prior to the festive season, heavy rains and fairly severe floods did do their usual damage to infrastructure in and around George, with some roads and related infrastructure damage still in need of repair.

“Natural infrastructure, such as mountain catchments and rivers, was also not spared. There are visible fresh scars on feeder streams on the George (Outeniqua) mountainside and damage to certain river channels was also reported. There were also reports about dam walls on farmland that collapsed causing even more downstream havoc,” says Meiring.

“Heavy rainfall and subsequent floods are perfectly normal occurrences and the Garden Route, most certainly, is no stranger to them. However, we can expect and prepare for a lot more in coming years. Predictions regarding changes in South African rainfall patterns brought about by a changing climate indicate that the Garden Route will increasingly be subjected to episodic rainfall events and less of the soft but persistent rainfall the region has been accustomed to.”

“Severe weather patterns affecting the Garden Route are nothing new, but as the most recent rainstorms and flooding causing havoc in the town of George and surrounds are testimony of, their impact can be severe and seem to be on the increase with the passing of time enhanced by the advent of the unpredictable impact of a changing climate and resultant changes in rainfall patterns.”

Says Meiring: “The way in which urban and semi-urban areas contend and cope with severe downpours of rainstorms differs completely from how nature would be able to do so if left undisturbed and in a natural state.”

“The energy from flooding and fast-flowing water following hard and sustained downpours in an urban context is multiplied exponentially by a lack of indigenous vegetation on the landscape, degraded and denuded riverbanks and systems as flooding water gains momentum and volume when it flows over hardened (paved/ tarred) surfaces, stormwater channels and eventually river systems.”

“In a natural environment, flooding occurs as a natural phenomenon and is a part of a healthy system, but the severity thereof is curtailed by natural barriers such as vegetation on the landscape, wetland systems that slow flooding waters down considerably and trapping sediment, plants such as Palmiet and reeds.”

Population influx posing many challenges to local authorities

The Southern Cape is falling victim to its own scenic beauty, perceived political stability and capable governance and is fast becoming a top destination for many living in the South African interior.

According to Meiring, the significant influx of people poses a huge challenge in many respects, both from environmental management and a local government perspective. As a mere example, it is reported that as many as two thousand new housing units will be built over the next three years alone between George and Mossel Bay, and that excludes informal and undocumented urban sprawl.

“Not only are the Garden Route towns not designed to accommodate unlimited expansion, but the regional environment suffers permanent and irreversible damage as biodiversity cannot survive a fast-shrinking natural habitat which inevitably has to make way for ever-increasing developments and urban sprawl,” says Meiring.

“Perhaps, more importantly, the Garden Route has limited resources – the supply of fresh water and the availability of land suitable for development are but two limitations.”

“For the Garden Route to maintain at least a semblance of a viable environment, and without losing its sense of place, much more attention must be given to planning for the future. Interaction between those responsible for local government and those managing the environment is vital,” concludes Meiring.

The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum and public platform for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction. It is a think tank for national, regional and local government, conservation bodies, academics, the media, landowners and land managers, active in the full spectrum of environmental matters in the region. Website: https://www.scli.org.za/gref/

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Convener of Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF)

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

 

Picture: New development

Sprawling new developments have a permanent impact on the survival of biodiversity in the Garden Route. (Photo: SCLI)

27 October 2021 Media Release: First case of Avian Influenza reported in the Garden Route

Media Release: First case of Avian Influenza reported in the Garden Route

For Immediate Release
27 October 2021

Yesterday, 26 October 2021, the first confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) bird death was reported in the Hessequa municipal area. Currently more than 13 000 birds in South Africa have died from this disease, of which most are Cape cormorants (Phalacrocorax capensis).

According to Gerhard Otto, Manager: Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) Disaster Management, the epicentre of the outbreak is at Dyer Island, which is also the main breeding island of these specific species in our country. “A wide range of seabirds, including pelicans, gulls, and cormorants have been affected,” said Otto. “We are concerned about HPAI, as veterinarians from Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds recently indicated that the outbreak could wipe out an entire endangered species of cormorants.”

“HPAI is a highly contagious viral disease of birds with no curative or preventative treatment,” reported the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).

Otto stated that “regular patrols are being conducted by Cape Nature and burial sites have already been identified for the region”.

To keep tabs on the spread of this outbreak, GRDM developed a standard operating procedure for call centre employees to follow when dealing with reports about bird deaths. The GRDM Disaster Management Centre urges the public to be vigilant and report unusual mortalities or abnormal numbers of sick birds to their local conservation authority, state veterinarian or the 24/7 GRDM Emergency Call Centre on 044 805 5071.

SANCCOB, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, CapeNature, SANParks, Garden Route District Municipality, Local Municipalities and local veterinarians are collaborating to monitor and manage the situation.

ENDS

Feature image: Cape Cormorant bird (iStock)

27 October 2021 Media Release: We are controlling alien invasive species on all our properties

Media Release:  We are controlling alien invasive species on all our properties

For Immediate Release
27 October 2021

Section 76 of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004) requires that all “Organs of State in all spheres of Government”, develop an “Invasive Species Monitoring, Control and Eradication Plan” for land under their control. These plans have to cover all listed invasive species in Section 70(1) of the Act.

According to Executive Mayor, Alderman Memory Booysen, “the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) has complied with the required mandatory legislation to take responsibility for eradicating alien species on its properties to adhere to the above”.  Booysen stated that during 2019 Council already appointed a service provider to compile an Invasive Monitoring Control and Eradication Plan as outlined in the two sets of legislation that regulate the declaration and control of Invasive Alien Species in South Africa.

These include the :

  • Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (43 of 1983, CARA); and
  • the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004, NEMBA).

GRDM, in 2019, submitted the Invasive Monitoring Control and Eradication Plan to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) for approval. After numerous engagements, including inspection of Council’s properties based on the submitted plan, on 05 August 2021, the GRDM received approval for the Plan. Following this, the GRDM Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) Section was mandated to monitor and evaluate properties bi-monthly as part of a monitoring and management control plan.  This approach was established to mitigate the risks on Council properties and adhere to NEMBA. Therefore, the progress and status of the Council properties regarding invasive species control is regularly tabled in Council.

Other recommendations from the GRDM Council regarding the management and monitoring of invasive and alien species includes:

  • creating fire breaks on Council’s properties; and
  • regular clearing and the erection of fencing at all Council properties to avoid sanction as outlined by section 102 of the Act (NEMBA).

Some of Council’s properties are located on the coastal lines with where there is a vast range of biodiversity species. However, easy accessibility to these properties contributes to illegal dumping, which poses a high risk to the threatened species. Numerous cleanup actions were conducted and are continuously planned for these properties.

With the current GRDM Council that approved Invasive Species Monitoring, Control and Eradication Plan, as well as all the control plans with specified timeframes, it is evident that future invasion by alien species is and will be managed and reduced.  An aggressive approach will be taken to implement proposed solutions and controls, pending the budget available within the 2021/22 financial year.

GRDM Invasive Species Monitoring, Control and Eradication Plan

 

27 September 2021 News Release: Garden Route District Municipality’s Environmental Health Practitioners fulfill significant role in Water Quality Monitoring

News Release: Garden Route District Municipality’s Environmental Health Practitioners fulfill significant role in Water Quality Monitoring


For Immediate Release
27 September 2021

Water is a national resource, fundamental to life, as well as growth and development. It, therefore, stands to reason that the quality of our drinking water and water resources is highly dependent on the overall management of the water cycle.  

According to Johan Compion, Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) Manager for Municipal Health and Environmental Management, GRDM is mandated by various legislation to monitor the quality of our drinking- and wastewater. He said: “The applicable legislation is enforced by Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) and is stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996, the Water Services Act, no 108 of 1997, the National Water Act no. 36 of 1998 and the National Health Act no. 61 of 2003”. To this he added: “Therefore all these health powers are vested in district municipalities, which includes water quality monitoring and environmental pollution control”.

 

GRDM has eight regions with offices to ensure that water quality in all regions is monitored at intervals required by the legislation mentioned above. The offices are situated in the following areas of the Garden Route district, including Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, George Head office with two sub-regions, Mossel Bay, Riversdale and Oudtshoorn, with a sub-office in Ladismith.

 

Typical water types that are monitored, sampled and analysed include, but are not limited to: drinking water, surface water (rivers and dams), treated sewage effluent, recreational waters (seawater and public swimming pools) and industrial effluent. Compliance rates for potable water are above ninety (90) per cent, and where samples do not comply with legislation (norms and standards), the reasons are investigated and corrective measures implemented. Waste water plants are also inspected, and sampling is done to ensure that the final effluents are safe to discard in the environment as per permit requirements.

 

Compion further highlighted and said: “Close cooperation with local municipalities, the Department of Water Affairs, the Department of Environmental Affairs, other government departments and private entities, as well as role-players, exist, to ensure that short-, medium- and long-term goals are met.

 

In conclusion he emphasised: “Notwithstanding all the above-mentioned facts, residents in the Southern Cape, are the main shareholders to ensure a healthy and safe environment and are encouraged to use water sparingly, to report any form of pollution and refrain from discarding any chemicals or foreign matter in sewage systems and water bodies”.

ENDS

8 September 2021 Media Release: Government stakeholders plant trees at the Provincial Launch of National Arbour Month in George

Media Release: Government stakeholders plant trees at the Provincial Launch of National Arbor Month in George

8 September 2021
For immediate release

“Your presence at this event, is an indication that you care, that you embrace what nature can give to us,” were the opening words of Executive Mayor of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), Alderman Memory Booysen, to the stakeholders at the Provincial launch of  National Arbor Month celebrations in George.

The event took place at the Garden Route Botanical Gardens on Friday, 2 September 2021.

Representatives from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the Department of Water and Sanitation, GRDM, the South African National Parks (SANParks), Cape Nature, the Garden Route Botanical Garden, Breede Gouritz Catchment Management Agency and George Municipality, attended the occasion.

Alderman Booysen, during his opening remarks said that Arbor Month should be a continuous awareness programme, “a continuous initiative that sets the tone for the whole South Africa, on how we balance nature with what people want”.

Mayor Booysen also shared an idea with the audience which he came across in Morocco, where a fruit tree is planted adjacent to every indigenous tree. These trees are planted within the communities where people are in close proximity to it. He further stated: “We need to start debating the issue on how we can deal with food security while planting indigenous trees at the same time”.

“We also have to determine how it can be managed as a job creation initiative because if we do not deal with humanitarian issues, people will put pressure on the issues,” Booysen emphasised. Referring to the involvement of the youth, he said that it is evident that they show interest in the well-being of the environment, but “we need to lay the foundation for such initiatives where jobs can be created while dealing with food security simultaneously”.

During his keynote address, Acting Regional Head for Western Cape DFFE, Mr Masithandaze Falitenjwa, shared this year’s Arbor month theme, ‘Forest Restoration: a path to recovery and well-being’. With this theme he said that the campaign encourages the celebration of South African trees. It also aims to create awareness of the importance of trees. He furthermore encouraged every person to “protect our indigenous forests, to help prevent veld and wildfires”. He further emphasised that planting a tree to green our country will help mitigate climate change.

Mr Deon Makwena from Cape Nature demonstrated the correct way of planting a tree, before the rest of the stakeholders touched the spade.

In response to the scenario shared by Mayor Booysen, he confirmed that planting fruit trees is part of the programme of the Department of DFFE. He also mentioned the significance of community involvement in their plans by saying: “If we do not include the community in our campaigns and plans, we will be fighting a losing battle. In terms of the initiatives of the DFFE, he admitted that partners and government institutions should become involved in these initiatives. He confirmed that DFFE sourced 200 trees for municipalities of the Garden Route as part of their “Tree for Life” Programme. In closing he highlighted: “Let us ‘green’ the Garden Route and turn it into a “Garden of Eden”.

Mrs Vuyiswa Thabethe, Regional Manager of SANParks in the Garden Route, left some ‘food for thought’ with all delegates when she shared that over the years of celebrating Arbour Month by planting trees, it provides for a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable environmental management. She then asked what the impact of our Arbor Month is when we are planting these trees and conducting awareness campaigns. “Does our society understand the value of the initiative?” In response to her question, she commented that if this answer is “yes”, we can pat ourselves on the back and say: “We are doing a good job”. She emphasised that we need to see the impact of similar initiatives, because “if one takes care of the trees, they will definitely take care of us in the future”.

During his address, the Acting Director of Water and Sanitation Services Support, Mr Zolile Simawo, explained the history of Arbor Month and their Department’s relevance in the the month’s activities. He encouraged communities, government departments, non-governmental organisations, non-profit organisations and communities, to plant indigenous trees. He said that planting trees would aid in sustaining the environment, sustain biodiversity (fauna and flora), provide clean air, given the major industrial activities and the pollution it creates, beautifying South Africa and conserve water.

Ald. Leon van Wyk, Executive Mayor of George, extended a word of appreciation to all departments for their contributions. He further said: “We need to continuously look at initiatives to maintain the green within our Garden Route and to maintain the sustainability thereof”. After the formal programme, both Executive Mayors, Ald. Booysen and Alderman Van Wyk, along with the stakeholders present, planted a tree at the Garden Route Botanical Garden as a symbol of their commitment to mitigating climate change.

The event was organised by GRDM Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation Practitioner, Dr Nina Viljoen, in collaboration with participating departments. The programme was directed by Corne Brink from the Garden Route Botanical Garden.

ENDS

4 June 2021 Media Release: Garden Route Climate Change Indaba to coincide with the United Nations World Oceans Day

Media Release: Garden Route Climate Change Indaba to coincide with the United Nations World Oceans Day

For Immediate Release
4 June 2021

The Garden Route Fire Commemoration Event and Climate Change Indaba will this year coincide with World Oceans Day, taking place on Tuesday 8 June 2021. The Indaba is hosted by the Garden Route District Municipality and the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

The theme for the 2021 United Nations World Oceans Day is Life and Livelihoods. It is a day for humanity to celebrate and support the life and the livelihood that the ocean sustains and puts the spotlight on biodiversity and the interconnectivity between the ocean and its ecosystems.

According to Cobus Meiring, chairperson of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF), entities tasked with environmental management in the Garden Route are increasingly emphasising the importance of restoration and rewilding of natural ecosystems and habitat in the region, which serves to highlight the interconnectivity between a healthy ocean and terrestrial environment.

“A point in case is the drive to reconnect the Indian Ocean with the Outeniqua mountains and the creation of biodiversity conservation and migration routes through the restoration of Garden Route forests, streams, wetlands, rivers and catchments in collaboration with private landowners.”

Stretching from Mossel Bay to the Storms River mouth, the Garden Route is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world.

Says Meiring: “The scenic splendour of the Garden Route is a precious resource. Celebrating a healthy and vibrant ocean and dependent ecosystems is an opportunity to boost the conservation of the region’s very special natural environment.”

“Climate change, and the challenges and opportunities it offers, is no doubt worth reflecting upon.  We dare not wipe out the memories of events like the 2017 and 2018 wildfire disasters which wreaked havoc in the Garden Route, nor the perpetual drought which decimated much of the agricultural capacity of the regional interior – much of which can be ascribed to slight climate changes with significant effects.”

“As the world celebrates World Oceans Day, South Africa in general, and the Garden Route in particular, will do well to use the opportunity to show respect for what remains of what nature blessed the country with, and even as we focus all our energy and resources to survive Covid-19 and its socio-economic impact, we have to plan to conserve our oceans and natural environment, as therein lies our ultimate survival as a species,” says Meiring.

Climate Change Indaba, Wilderness

The theme for this year’s Garden Route Fire Commemoration Event and Climate Change Indaba is “Adapt to a Sustainable Future”. The keynote address will be delivered by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), Ms Makhotso Magdaline Sotyu.

Professors Christo Fabricius and Hervé Fritz will present the latest findings on global change research in the Garden Route. Professor Fabricius is Lead, CARMa-Afrika: Capacity for African Resource Management at Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and Professor Hervé Fritz is Director of the ECO REHABS International Research Lab, CNRS France, together with the Nelson Mandela University.

The challenges of climate change and invasive alien species in Africa will also come under the spotlight in a presentation by Dr Arné Witt, Invasive Alien Plant Specialist and Regional (Africa, Asia and the Caribbean) Invasive Alien Species Coordinator for the international science-based development organisation, CABI.

Other presentation topics include disaster management, water resource management, freshwater ecology, and sea-level rise and its impact on coastal infrastructure along the Mossel Bay coastline.

A field visit, hosted by Knysna Municipality, the Garden Route Trail Park and the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) will also be taking place on Wednesday 9 June 2021. The focus of the field visit will be on methods for killing blackwood including herbicide mixing and application, as this remains one of the most difficult weeds to control.

Interested organisations or individuals who would like to attend the indaba and/field visit can send an email to Louise Maré, louisamare@gmail.com for more information. Due to Covid-19 regulations, is it essential to register in advance for the Indaba.

Coastline as the world celebrates World Oceans Day 2021, the Garden Route reflects upon the way we manage our coastline in the face of the severe impact of development and coastal vulnerability. (Photo: SCLI)

The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum and public platform for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction.  It is a think tank for national, regional and local government, conservation bodies, academics, the media, landowners and land managers, active in the full spectrum of environmental matters in the region. Website: https://www.scli.org.za/gref/

 

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Chairperson of Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF)

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za

5 May 2021 Media Release: Safeguarding Wetlands and Preserving Nature’s Ability to Filter and Supply Clean Water

Media Release: Safeguarding Wetlands and Preserving Nature’s Ability to Filter and Supply Clean Water

For Immediate Release
5 May 2021

Wetlands are of immense value as it contributes to ecosystems, for instance, flood control, water filtration and security, which are increasingly important in the context of climate change. Therefore, the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) seeks to enhance the conservation and management of the district’s natural wetland resources by integrating biodiversity considerations into local government planning and decision-making. Subsequently, the GRDM developed a Wetlands Strategy and Implementation Plan. These strategic documents are essential tools that enable dynamic wetland protection and management going into the future.

Wetlands are gradually vanishing around the globe, and with that, also the important ecosystem services that they provide.

OUR OBJECTIVES AND MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES RELATING TO WETLANDS
The Garden Route District Municipality recognises the complex socio-ecological interactions relating to wetland protection and has therefore adopted the following objectives and management principles:

FIVE (5) OBJECTIVES:

1 – Ensuring wetland protection

2 – Ensuring long-term sustainable wetland use

3 – Research and monitoring

4 – Climate change mitigation and adaptation

5 – Ensuring up to date spatial information and mapping

SIX (6) MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES:

1 – Maintenance of connectivity

2 – Maintenance of landscape heterogeneity

3 – Maintenance of biodiversity & complexity

4 – Maintenance of intact aquatic ecosystems

5 – Disturbance identification to guide management

6 – Maintenance of important wetland functioning

Careful management and the investment in the maintenance of healthy wetlands and the rehabilitation and restoration of damaged or degraded wetlands are critical. It will ensure the continued provision of vital ecosystem services, especially within areas where rapid environmental and water ecosystem degeneration occurs. Contributing factors to the degeneration of ecosystems include, amongst others, population density increases, unprecedented property and industry development.

ECOSYSTEM SERVICE CATEGORIES

All wetland types can be classified as high value’ ecological infrastructure’ due to the large number of ecosystem services that they provide. Wetland ecosystem services can be classified into four separate categories: ‘ provisioning services’, ‘regulating services’, ‘cultural services’, and ‘supporting services’.

Provisioning services can be described as the products one can physically obtain from wetlands and regulatory services can be described as the benefits one receives from the wetland. Cultural services are the nonmaterial benefits that one can obtain from wetlands. Lastly, supporting services are the services provided that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services.

MORE BENEFITS OF KEEPING WETLANDS HEALTHY

Wetlands have been identified as storehouses of carbon. Wetlands are estimated to store more than 25% of the world’s total land area. Wetlands also contribute significantly to the water purification and filtration function of trapping a wide range of substances. Such substances include suspended sediment, excess nutrients, phosphorus, nitrogen, pesticide residue, industrial effluent, pathogenic bacteria and viruses. High concentrations of these substances are prevented from reaching groundwater supplies or surface water downstream, which results in communities being able to enjoy clean drinkable water.

IMPORTANCE OF PRESERVING WETLANDS

Wetland protection goes beyond wetland conservation to ensuring that local communities within the district can continue with subsistence initiatives. This is linked to the sustainable use of wetland plants and fish to support their diets and health. Many of the plants growing within and around wetlands have natural medicinal properties and local communities harvest these plants to maintain/improve their health.

Small-scale entrepreneurs and traders in the Garden Route harvest reeds from the wetlands to make baskets and furniture, grasses for thatching and Arum lilies to sell. Fishing local fish to sell on and bait collecting (small juvenile fish, prawns, and blood worms) is common to support the local informal fishing industry.

COST IMPLICATIONS OF UPKEEPING ECOSYSTEMS

Numerous ecosystem services provided by wetlands come at no cost to a municipality, and as such, everyone has a responsibility to protect and maintain local wetlands. However, the improper management of wetlands can cause a loss of wetland area and subsequent loss of ecosystem services. This results in the municipalities having to do damage control by investing in expensive infrastructure (e.g. water filtration plants or flood barriers) to ensure the same level of service delivery is upheld. The implementation of the GRDM Wetlands Strategy and Implementation Plan is therefore critical, especially when it comes to sustainable future water security within the district.

Continued community and stakeholder collaboration and partnerships are essential in order to achieve wetland protection objectives. Due to climate change and other increasing risks, “business as usual” will not be sustainable. The municipality and stakeholders need to adapt to a new normal. One central issue that needs to be adapted is community upliftment opportunities and products/services for sustainable wetland use. Others include wetlands prioritisation and following international best practices, new technologies, and methodologies, to name a few.

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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

17 November 2020 Media Release: Southern Cape community to reflect on environmental management during December 2020 event

Media Release: Southern Cape community to reflect on environmental management during December 2020 event

For Immediate Release
17 November 2020

“Worldwide there is a general perception that COVID-19 and the resultant lockdown measures implemented globally have had a positive impact on nature and the environment we share and depend upon for survival,” says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

“From crystal clear waterways in Venice to dolphins frolicking in places they were never to be found in modern times, clear and unpolluted skies in places like China and India, a dramatic drop in illicit animal trade, including reduced rhino poaching and the closure of wet markets in Asia, there is general consensus that the impact of humans on natural ecosystems is vast, and more importantly, that much of it can be addressed proactively by the collective if the will to do so can be generated.”

Says Meiring, “Closer to home, natural systems got a short break from constant and increasing human pressure, ranging from reduced emissions from the absence of thousands of vehicles on our roads during lockdown, zero activity on beaches, and a temporary pause on habitat destruction to make way for new houses and infrastructure.”

“Unfortunately, the effects of a changing climate and the calamities it causes globally were ever-present throughout 2020, as the Philippines was hit by ten typhoons and two super typhoons, and California suffered from the worst wildfire disaster of all times, leading to untold destruction, human displacement, and environmental damage and loss of biodiversity.”

According to Meiring environmental and conservation management actions in the Southern Cape will take centre stage on Wednesday 9 December as key regional stakeholders will reflect on actions they undertook during 2020, the challenges they faced, showcase their projects and make projections as to what they plan for 2021 at the annual GREF year-end report-back seminar.

The GREF event will be held virtually via Microsoft Teams. For more information, visit the website at

https://www.scli.org.za/gref-stakeholder-event-via-microsoft-teams-9-december-2020/

Photo: Touw River

Southern Cape river systems, such as the Touw River, are vital to regional biodiversity conservation connecting the Outeniqua mountains with the Indian Ocean. (Photo: Cobus Meiring)

 ** The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction. The forum aims to coordinate regional conservation efforts, serves as a catalyst to drive climate adaptation practices in the Southern Cape and strives to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.

Website: www.scli.org.za/gref

MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Cobus Meiring: Chair of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF)

Cell: 083 626 7619

Email: cobus@naturalbridge.co.za