GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - In the run-up to its yearly environmental seminar for key stakeholders, the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is looking to find lasting solutions for prevailing regional problems and a myriad new challenges in effective environmental management.
For decades, authorities and private landowners have been dealing with the same problems, including non-sustainable land use and land management best practice, increased fire risks and water-security issues, a rapid decrease in natural habitat and biodiversity conservation, and compliance with environmental and agricultural legislation.
Managing the Southern Cape environment has become exponentially more difficult over time, with many new challenges – including climate change, major changes in rainfall patterns, unprecedented wildfires, vast population growth and development, invasive alien plant growth and drought.
In many respects, national government departments are experiencing operational difficulties, including managing their own assets and land, reduced resources, a low skills base, lack of effective communication, a sustained reactive approach or a complete lack of mandated management and compliance with environmental legislation.
In the Southern Cape, the Garden Route District Municipality and its public and private sector partners, though the Garden Route Environmental Forum, aim to play a leading role in taking on environmental challenges and development of partnerships in order to ensure and encourage a cohesive approach to find sustainable solutions.
According to Cobus Meiring of the GREF secretariat, a fresh approach to planning around water security is always a good point of departure.
Given the persistent drought in the interior regions, centred around towns like Van Wyksdorp, Calitzdorp, Ladismith and Oudtshoorn, the management of invasive alien plants, among other factors, is critical.
"As an example, rivers and catchments feeding the Kamanassie and Raubenheimer dams for Oudtshoorn, and the Nels River feeding Calitzdorp, are systems stressed by invasive alien plants and subsequent degradation. These systems require urgent intervention. However, there is still little information available on exactly what the extent of the problems are, and how to address them."
Meiring continues to say: "National environmental programmes, in particular, the Working for Water Programme, has proven to be unsustainable in effectively dealing with invasive alien plants in catchments and rivers, and is in effect hampering efforts to assist regional landowners to manage invasive alien plants on their land. The model needs to be urgently revised and adapted given the circumstances."
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