22 February 2019

Article by Cobus Meiring 

Landowners along Garden Route river systems have a responsibility to maintain their land in accordance with environmental legislation

“As a first step towards better managing their land, and to get in line with legislation governing land management, landowners are encouraged to draw up an invasive alien plant control plan, which allows landowners to systematically deal with invasive alien plants,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“With much national focus on the very real energy crises, it is easy to forget that the country is facing an even more dire situation in terms of the supply of fresh water to a fast-growing nation.”

According to Meiring, the lack of available fresh water in towns such as Beaufort West and Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) has reached epic proportions. It has become common cause that when a stage is reached that the well-known Gift of the Givers emergency and disaster management and support entity has to intervene in a water-stressed environment, the situation is beyond dire.

“Drought, compounded by a complete lack of, or simply plain bad management practices on all municipal levels, including an acute and growing lack of hard and technical skills within government structures, makes for a horror story likely to repeat itself more and more often as political forces and irrational policies continue to contribute to the collapse of public and natural infrastructure management.”

Continues Meiring, “Human suffering as a result of too little available fresh water is always immediately evident, but what is less focused on is what happens to our environment when infrastructure fails, the climate change and less water of a too low-quality flows down our rivers and into our wetlands, estuaries and ultimately the ocean.”

How can land managers and landowners help the environment survive a total onslaught?

As much as nature can be quick to recover, resilient and forgiving, it is at the same time fragile and reaches a point of no return to stability where it is no longer able to deliver some of its critical services, such as the promotion of valuable biodiversity and the supply of clean fresh water.

“Over-extraction of water from catchments in times of drought and allowing our catchments and rivers from being totally overgrown with invasive alien plants all contribute to natural systems that underperform, often with disastrous effects,” says Meiring.

In the Garden Route, fresh water supply to estuaries such as the Klein and Groot Brak is increasingly deteriorating, with their ability to sustain aquatic life leading to a reduction of Indian Ocean fish stocks and associated food chain deterioration.

Whilst Garden Route residents can do little to increase annual rainfall figures, there is a lot we can do in order to ensure that our rivers and catchments are functioning optimally.

“By eradicating invasive alien trees and plants from our catchments, river courses, seep lines and wetlands, there will be a marked positive difference in the way our natural ecosystems function.”

In a regional effort to assist landowners in clearing their land of invasive alien plants, the Table Mountain Fund, through the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI), is embarking on a regional drive to assist and inform landowners in dealing with invasive plants on their land.

As a first step towards better managing their land, and to get in line with legislation governing land management, landowners are encouraged to draw up an invasive alien plant control plan, which allows landowners to systematically deal with invasives.

For more information landowners can visit the SCLI website:

https://www.scli.org.za/problems-invasive-alien-plants-draw-plan/

https://www.scli.org.za/category/iap-eradication/

** 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).

 

Written by Marti Kirstein