30 October 2018

“The recent devastating wildfires that swept through the Riversdale countryside left behind a trail of destroyed properties, a legendary firefighter pilot dead and thousands of hectares of vegetation destroyed, leaving behind a battered environment and a rural community in tatters”, says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“Compounding the matter, from a regional perspective, is that this disaster comes hot on the heels of the 2017 wildfires, which destroyed more than 50 000 hectares both in Hessequa and Knysna/ Plettenberg Bay”.

“Mostly as a result of the prevailing drought – in its third year – Still Bay and the surrounding areas have not recovered from the 2017 inferno, and much as the case in the Knysna and surrounding areas, invasive alien plants are rapidly gaining ground over some 20 hectares near Still Bay following a prolonged period of stunted growth as a result of the drought and hot windy conditions.”

Soaring temperatures and prolonged dry spells all indicate towards a change in weather

“In the Southern Cape, climate change is no longer a concept conservation bodies are debating, it has become a harsh reality, and, as a collective, we are slow to react and adapt,” continues Meiring.

The establishment of an overarching environmental body by the Garden Route District Municipality and partners, to be called the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF), aims to coordinate regional conservation efforts, and serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape.

The Southern Cape is vulnerable to increased risk associated with threats to the environment, including water security, wildfire, loss of biodiversity, all resulting in a reduction of economic opportunity and communities under pressure.

Says Meiring: “An all-out effort to ensure a climate-ready future, and a mind shift in the way we adapt and manage our environment, is not negotiable, urgent and should dominate the social and political narrative if the region aims to develop sustainably. An environment free of invasive alien plants and cleared waterways and catchments will take the region a leap forward in risk reduction, and all authorities, landowners and land managers must heed the call.”

Written by Marti Kirstein