Visit KnysnaProgress Report GRRI Environmental Working Group Friday 25 August 2017
1. Minister and Mayor visit Knysna sites
Mr. Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, along with Eden Executive Mayor, Councillor Memory Booysen, visited the Knysna sites, on Wednesday 23rd August, where the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative (GRRI) are implementing a number of projects aimed at stabilizing the environment, following the devastating fires.

Because of denuded landscapes, even mild rainfall can cause soil displacement, with sand and mud washing through downstream properties in Brenton and Belvidere.

The GRRI Environmental Restoration working group, as part of its rapid response programme, installed several interventions in order to stabilize steep (exposed) slopes.

Literally hundreds of tons of soil have successfully been prevented from washing down the slopes, causing erosion and further environmental damage.

Minister Winde, whose own house was burnt to the ground in Belvidere Heights, expressed his satisfaction with progress made with the efforts to prevent further damage to the environment.

Minister and Mayor visit Knysna sites

MINISTER WINDE (CENTRE) ON SITE WITH EDEN EXECUTIVE MAYOR, COUNCILLOR BOOYSEN (R) AND MR. WAYNE YOUNG (L)

Minister Winde, Councillor Booysen

MINISTER WINDE (L) ON SITE WITH EDEN EXECUTIVE MAYOR, COUNCILLOR BOOYSEN (R) THE GROUP VISITING KNYSNA TO VIEW WORK DONE IN AREAS FACING A HIGH RISK OF MUDSLIDES AND SOIL EROSION

The Group visiting Knysna

FROM L – R: MR. CLIVE AFRICA (EDEN DM EXECUTIVE MANAGER: COMMUNITY SERVICES, COUNCILLOR MEMORY BOOYSEN (EDEN DM EXECUTIVE MAYOR), MR. WAYNE YOUNG, DR. HILDERGARDE FAST (CO-ORDINATOR: GARDEN ROUTE REBUILD INITIATIVE), MR. COBUS MEIRING (SCLI), MR. KAM CHETTY (KNYSNA MUNICIPAL MANAGER), MS. PAM BOOTH (KNYSNA ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES), MR. ALAN WINDE (WESTERN CAPE MINISTER OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES).

Minister expresses concerns over illegal dumping

Making a stop at the site of the old Crabs Creek restaurant, Minister Winde expressed shock and dismay over brazen illegal dumping of building rubble.

Minister Winde is of the opinion that citizens should take action when they witness illegal dumping, and report the registration numbers of vehicles or individuals who make themselves guilty of dumping.

Minister expresses concerns over illegal dumping

MINISTER WINDE AND GROUP AT A SITE WHERE RUBBLE HAS BEEN DUMPED

2. GRRI Environmental: Rapid Environmental Restoration Response

Rapid Environmental Restoration Response (RERR), is a term coined by GRRI in the aftermath of the Knysna fires.

Instituted by Japie Buckle, (an ecologist from DEA Natural Resource Management Programmes), Pam Booth from Knysna Municipality, and the GRRI Environmental team, RERR include the following:

  • Plotting and effecting an immediate response to environmental restoration, following a disaster (such as the Knysna fire)
  • Preventing further damage to the environment through e.g. protecting top soil from washing away / preserving seed banks
  • Rapid deployment of skilled and un- skilled labour capable of implementing environmental disaster mitigation actions
  • Development of data sets required to give effect to spatial planning
  • Soft interventions aimed at erosion control/ mitigation e.g. fibre rolls and blankets
  • Replanting and reseeding of devastated landscapes
  • Devising of strategies to deal with invasive alien plant management
  • Monitoring of restoration interventions for follow- up actions

 

Japie Buckle, Pam Booth

JAPIE BUCKLE & PAM BOOTH

3. Lost species blooms in Brenton on Sea
George Lily (Cyrtanthus elatus, Scarborough lily), found blooming in Brenton on Sea.
The area where the lily has been seen is in the direct vicinity of the Brenton Blue butterfly.

Lost species blooms in Brenton on Sea

GEORGE LILY (CYRTANTHUS ELATUS, SCARBOROUGH LILY)

4. Brenton Blue butterfly habitat destroyed

Dr Dave Edge, a renowned conservationist, and one the world’s leading experts on butterflies, is a member of the GRRI Environmental restoration team.

After the fire, there was no sign of the butterfly’s larval host plant, Indigofera erecta – not unusual for this time of year, because it is currently in its dormant winter state with underground.

The effect on the Brenton Blue butterfly of such a severe fire is not known, although it is believed by butterfly experts that it has adaptations which should enable it to survive such a fire. The larvae and pupae of the butterfly are underground at this time of year, tended by host ants Camponotus baynei, and feed on the rootstocks of the host plant. It is believed from studies on other butterflies with similar life cycles that the larvae and pupae have the capacity to remain in a diapausal state for several years until surface conditions are again favourable.

We trust that the plants will recover, then the ants will follow, and hopefully the Brenton Blue will make a full recovery.

Brenton Blue butterfly habitat destroyed

5. Rehabilitation efforts in White Location

In effort to stabilize a burnt slope and riparian slope in White Location, efforts will include restoring the environmental integrity of the seep line.
The prevention of down- stream siltation, and leaching of contaminated storm water into the Knysna estuary, will be the objective.

Rehabilitation efforts in White Location

6. Brenton conservation land

Susan Campbell, a Knysna resident and ardent conservationist, owns land in the Brenton Peninsula, between Buffels Bay and Brenton on Sea.

Today all that remains of a tented camp is a stone chimney. More importantly, from a biodiversity conservation point of view, the landscape is extremely valuable.

In an effort to stimulate the growth of the Fynbos in the area, a controlled burn was conducted in the area mere weeks before the Knysna fire.

Brenton conservation land

From a monitoring perspective, GRRI Environmental will keep a close eye on developments on the Brenton Peninsula in order to determine to what extent indigenous flora makes a comeback.

Positive signs that indigenous plants will resurrect are already visible at places.

The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI), is a public platform for landowners and land managers who have an interest in the control and eradication of invasive alien plants. As part of its Water Stewardship Initiative, SCLI is piloting WEP systems in the Southern Cape. SCLI is supported by the Table Mountain Fund, an associated trust of WWF SA, visit www.wwf.org.za for more information.

Written by Cobus Meiring