“Failure of ecological infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal worsens the impact of recent floods, and the Garden Route must learn from the severe disaster,” says Dr Nina Viljoen, Manager, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation at the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) and a spokesperson for the Garden Route Environmental Forum.
According to Dr Viljoen, a series of deadly cyclones and high-intensity rainstorms in KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique was such that no matter what, the impact would have resulted in disaster.
“The impact of urban and rural development on the ability of nature in mitigating and managing severe floods and rainstorms, cannot be underestimated. The fact that landowners all over the world want to build their houses as close as possible to rivers and ocean shores exponentially raise the risk of the destruction of their property in the event of flooding and ocean storm surges,” warns Dr Viljoen.
She explains: “Over time we have destroyed our ecological infrastructure enabling nature to cope with heavy rain such as wetlands and seep lines. We have channelled our river systems, and hardened saturation surfaces and water table recharge zones, leaving floodwaters to gain unbridled energy and volumes, destroying everything in its path and claiming many lives”.
“Considering the predicted impact of climate change, and an increase in severe weather conditions and possible natural disasters, authorities must be vigilant in planning for expansion, and allowing development in areas that are naturally sensitive and prone to disaster”.
On 7 June this year, the Garden Route District Municipality and the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) will be hosting the 2017 Fire Commemoration event and Climate Change and Adaption Indaba in the George area.
Environmental and climate change experts will review the overarching research and strategy development that has taken place over the past two years regarding environmental risk reduction in the region, and the physical measures that have been implemented. The indaba will also establish a roadmap of what is planned for the region in the coming months to confront the challenges of climate change readiness.
The impact of urban and rural development on the ability of nature in mitigating and managing severe floods and rainstorms, cannot be underestimated.
** 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, serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape and strive to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.