“Not unlike the rest of South Africa, a fast-growing population and urbanization process in the Southern Cape is piling pressure on sparse natural resources, most predominantly freshwater resources,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

According to Meiring, this urban expansion is particularly visible around towns on the coastal plateau such as George, Knysna and Mossel Bay, and also in the Klein Karoo.

“As a mere example, sprawling new developments and townships on the outskirts of Oudsthoorn and formerly small rural communities such as Dysselsdorp are not only a present-day and future concern from a socio-economic perspective but also in terms of natural resources, especially freshwater resources. The impact of more housing developments on the survival of biodiversity and the irreversible destruction of natural habitat where new land has to be cleared, place more pressure on the region’s natural resources.”

“The Southern Cape is no stranger to drought, and several towns in the region have still not really recovered from the severe drought which has been playing havoc in recent times. The Kamanassie Dam near Dysselsdorp, for instance, has been completely empty for years, and even with substantial rain falling in its catchment in recent times the dire situation has not changed.”

“In as much as it is important to plan for present and future water demand management and consider all available options, the removal of invasive alien trees and bush encroachment in rivers and catchments such as that of the Kamanassie Dam is vital if streamflow is to be improved significantly,” says Meiring.

“Along the Garden Route well over 75 landowners, in collaboration with SCLI, has already started clearing feeder streams and riverbeds on their land, and the results are there for all to see, not only in terms of more water being freed up, but also of unique biodiversity such as near-extinct Fynbos species making a comeback.”

“As part of its water stewardship programme, SCLI has designed and developed modular floating evaporation suppression covers, which may well serve as significant purpose in a future where literally every drop counts, and where evaporation accounts for vast amounts of water lost from essential water storage dams,” says Meiring.

New developments: Exponential growth in regional populations and the constant need for new land to develop put natural resources in the Southern Cape under enormous pressure. (Photo: Cobus Meiring, SCLI)

Written by Marti Kirstein