Dealing With Unknown Factors

Southern Cape Environmental Rehabilitation Plan. An Environmental Task Team and Project Management Unit established to deal with Plett/ Knysna fire damage.

Following the devastating fires around the Plettenberg Bay Knysna area, a multi- disciplinary action plan, known as the Southern Cape Environmental Rehabilitation Plan (SCERP), was established.

In order to include fire damage (earlier this year), in areas outside of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, such as Albertinia, Still Bay and elsewhere, a regional approach was taken.

SCERP is to provide organizational leadership required to oversee the process of environmental recovery, says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

On board of the steering committee are representatives from the key local, regional and national government entities, specializing in all matters environmental.

Key role players will include amongst others the likes of the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, Eden District Disaster Management, Knysna Municipality, Cape Nature, SANParks, Working on Fire. etc.

One of the first tasks SCERP is embarking on, is to collect digital information on where, and on what scale, the environment has been damaged during the fires. SCERP will take stock of where the environment is now in terms of rehabilitation, where nature is likely to suffer further damages, and to monitor and evaluate the situation.

Already equipment to prevent erosion from exposed inclines is being supplied to the region, and teams are being readied for training on how interventions must be applied.

There is a lot of urgency in dealing with the crisis, as the Southern Cape is fast entering the rainy season, and besides potential erosion there are many more aspects pertaining to the environment that will require intervention and monitoring.

Dealing with the unknown factor, the Southern Cape (nor South Africa), has, to date, recorded the kind of infrastructural and environmental destruction on the scale brought about by the recent fires.

Fires recorded in the previous century are on record for the damages caused over a large footprint, but there are too many landscape variables in place today to make a parallel conclusion.

Because of the intensity of the fires, Fynbos areas will be set to benefit from the heat and will recover perfectly. Other areas may well be unable to recover, take decades to recover, or recover but soon after succumb to the ever present threat of invasive alien plants.

SCERP, and other parallel task teams (working on different aspects), are in the process of collating information and quantifying damages, but there is a long way to go.

Exactly how nature will bounce back, or not, will have to be seen. In an effort to develop a broad spectrum of informed opinions, SCERP is in the process of interviewing environmental rehabilitation specialists to obtain information on possible scenarios and solutions.

Monitoring specific sites for unwanted developments, and evaluating the levels of success of specific interventions, aimed at limiting environmental damage, will be a crucial aspect of work over the next few years.

Southern Cape Environmental Rehabilitation Plan Erosion-Risk
Photo Caption: A multi-disciplinary environmental task team and project management unit, known as the Southern Cape Environmental Rehabilitation Plan (SCERP), has been established to address fire damage to the Plettenberg Bay/ Knysna area following the devastating recent fire.

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.

SCLI

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Written by Cobus Meiring