THE Garden Route Initiative (GRI) will soon submit an application to the Eastern Cape provincial government for the proclamation of a biosphere reserve for the Garden Route, including St Francis Bay and Humansdorp.
The proposed Garden Route Biosphere Reserve will extend from George in the west to St Francis in the East – bridging the gap between environment and development.
According to Julie Carlisle from the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve, biosphere reserves are tools to address environmental, social and economic sustainability. “They definitely do not exclude people, development, towns or farmlands. Rather, they logically define an area that is deemed to be special due to its ecological and cultural areas of significance into three zones.
“The three zones consists of core zones such as national parks that have legal protection, and the buffer zones that adjoin or surround the core areas and where low impact activities such as ecotourism, education and research take place. Lastly there is the transition zones where towns are situated and where human activities such as farming and business take place.”
The Garden Route has all three these zones. The Fynbos biome found here, is the smallest yet most diverse biodiversity hotspot in the world and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The region furthermore boasts Afromontane forests, marine protected areas, the largest land and marine mammals, cultural diversity and significant palaeo history that dates back to between 120 and 180 0000 years.
According to Carlisle, the biosphere concept can support and reinforce projects and programmes to enhance livelihoods; attract funding for social, education, tourism, cultural and environmental projects; provide a platform for stakeholder cooperation; reduce the environmental footprint and provide the ideal place for the implementation of pilot projects.
The application process is supported by the Table Mountain Fund. A series of public information meetings will be held. Meetings are set to take place at the Boskor Hall in Storms River from 14:00 to 15:00 on August 11 and at the St Francis Bay Bowls Club in St Francis Bay from 11:00 to 12:00 on August 13.
The first round of meetings will be information sharing meetings, with the next round focusing on mapping the core, buffer and transition zones. The dates for the second round will still be announced.
. South Africa is home to eight recognised biosphere reserves: Kogelberg, Cape West Coast Extension, Waterberg, Kruger to Canyons, Cape Winelands (2007), Vhembe, Gouritz Cluster Bioshpere Reserve and the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve.