SOUTHERN CAPE NEWS - There is light in the tunnel regarding the forestry situation in the Southern Cape.
That is the message of Dr Jaap Steenkamp, well-known forestry expert.
Steenkamp attended a meeting in Paarl last week as representative of the SA Forestry Contractors Association, together with Roy Southey of Sawmilling SA and Braam du Preez of the SA Institute of Forestry. The meeting was hosted by the Drakenstein Municipality.
Maggie Sotyu, deputy minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries; Donald Grant, special advisor in the office of Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, and representatives of the Western Cape Forestry Forum and the National Forests Advisory Council were among those that attended.
Steenkamp made a representation on behalf of the three mentioned organisations and the forestry situation in the Southern Cape was discussed.
In the past, the industry has appealed to the then Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) to execute the already accepted Louis Heyl report to save the industry, as it forms a vital part of the Southern Cape economy.
The Heyl report of 2014/15 stated that Daff should implement smooth transition measures. This should have occurred from 2016. It was warned that a void would occur in the industry and due to the wildfires experienced in the recent past, this void has now increased.
After enquiry by the George Herald, Steenkamp confirmed that he attended the meeting. "I am positive after the meeting. The deputy minister indicated that she and a delegation will visit the Southern Cape in October to discuss the situation."
On Monday Steenkamp said that in the 2018 fires in the Southern Cape, 17 000 hectares of forestry were destroyed. With the contribution of forestry to the economy of George being approximately 20%, the magnitude of the crisis is significant.
After the fires the area came to a standstill with the departure of MTO and consequent handing back of the area to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff) for continued management.
At the moment the estimated area to be replanted through envisaged community projects amounts to approximately 6 000ha in the Southern Cape and 350ha in Hawequa.
He said not attending to these areas has the following consequences:
- Increased fuel loads;
- Uncontrolled spread of aliens;
- No preparation of fire belts;
- Abandoning and redistribution of respectively fixed and mobile infrastructure;
- Increased wild fire risk;
- Decreased economic activities; and
- Loss of contractors and jobs.
The estimated losses to the George economy amounts to more than R100-million per year. As these losses will increase poverty and unemployment, it is important that something must be done.
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