“Blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, the Garden Route can be a deadly deceiving place, as the recent wildfire catastrophes and crippling drought proved,” says Dr Nina Viljoen, Manager: Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation at the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) and a spokesperson for the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).
“The one question which we are likely to discuss at the Annual Fire Commemoration event and Climate Change and Adaptation Indaba on 7 June, is if we are now better prepared to deal with a repeat of the 2017 and 2018 fire disasters, or if we are increasingly relying on fire-fighting capacity on the ground and from the air,” says Dr Viljoen.
“In many instances the very same conditions conducive to set the scene for out of control wildfire, such as regrowth of invasive alien plants which burnt down with the last wildfire, are again a feature on the landscape. Built-up areas in the rural/ urban interface are often still exposed to the build-up of biomass in the landscape, providing ample fuel for runaway wildfire. We do get the sense that communities are often vaguely aware of potential dangers, but are slow to react proactively, therefore we have to focus on investing in a better-informed fire-wise community.”
“Similarly, constant rain during the past weeks and months along the Garden Route creates a false sense of security against drought, but the regional population most certainly must prevail with fresh water conservation measures to permanently reduce consumption, and to accept those measures as a new way of life,” says Dr Viljoen.
** The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction. The forum aims to coordinate regional conservation efforts, serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape and strive to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.