Failure to plan for a better environment is planning for failure

Failure to plan for a better environment is planning for failure
Failure to plan for a better environment is planning for failure

Failure to plan for a better environment is planning for failure

The 2018 Garden Route Environmental Restoration Seminar will be hosted on 6 and 7 June at the Brenton-on-Sea Community Hall to commemorate the 2017 Knysna fires and reflect on all matters pertaining to the rehabilitation of Knysna and the surrounds post-fire, and planning ahead. Water security, fire and associated risks and biodiversity conservation are high on the agenda. The seminar is a collaborative effort to involve regional, provincial and national role-players.

“The devastating 2017 Knysna fires, coupled with persisting drought in the whole of the Western Cape, are indicators that the region is entering a new era where the management of natural resources will increasingly have to be managed more carefully than ever before,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

According to Meiring, the 2017 Knysna fires served as an early wake-up call for the residents of the Southern Cape, and those responsible for future planning in the region agree that it can never again be business as usual. “Failure to plan ahead, combined with a relentless change in weather conditions, can be catastrophic.”

In the Southern Cape, unbridled expansion along the Garden Route, an unmanaged rural-urban interface, scarce water supplies, and pressure on natural infrastructure, such as over-extension on coastal dune systems, may have detrimental results in coming years.

For years conservationists lamented the impact severe infestation of invasive alien plants has on the Southern Cape ecology. Initially, the call for invasive plant eradication was to preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity along the Garden Route, but in the past ten years, the emphasis shifted towards fire and water risks, posed by invasive alien plants. The 2017 Knysna fires proved that invasive alien plants provide the fuel load for immensely fierce fires, capable of destroying entire towns, and bringing down regional economies.

Thousands of hectares of previously pristine land are now transformed into wild pine, wattle and Port Jackson plantations. Coastal areas are completely overrun by Rooikrans and a host of lesser-known invader plants, seemingly unchallenged in displacing indigenous vegetation.

In collaborating with the Sustainability Research Unit based at the School of Natural Resource Management at the Nelson Mandela University, the Southern Cape Landowners initiative will be hosting an environmental seminar to commemorate the 2017 Knysna fires and plan ahead for the future.

According to Meiring a couple of tough questions will be asked in terms of planning for future urban expansion. In a presentation on “Privilege, poverty and the environment: Planning for future urban expansion in the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa”, Dr Robert Fincham (NMU) and Stephen Stead (Visual Resource Management Africa), will shed some light on where the Southern Cape might be heading towards in terms of long-term planning, against a backdrop of climate change.

SCLI is a public platform for landowners and land managers with an interest in water stewardship, ecological restoration and invasive alien plant control and eradication.

Cobus Meiring: The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI)
Cell: 083 626 7619
Email: [email protected]