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.
Over time, managing the Southern Cape environment has become exponentially more difficult, 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.
Finding new solutions and partnerships are vital
In many respects national government departments are experiencing difficulties in operational respects, 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.
What kind of solutions should the region be looking for?
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, amongst 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.”
Planning for climate change
“Climate change will have a definite impact on both the present and future generations living in the Garden Route. Exactly what that impact will be in practical terms, we have little understanding of as yet, but we have to explore what the scenario may look like, and plan in accordance,” Meiring says.
The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) will be looking at what the agricultural production scenario will reflect in two decades from now, what are the vulnerabilities of our coastline given the slight rise in ocean levels, stronger storm surges and floods, fire risk to ever-expanding communities and the rural/ urban interface.
The Garden Route Environmental Forum’s seminar and key stakeholder event will take place in the George area on 11 December this year to reflect on regional environmental initiatives and planning ahead for 2020. Mandated by the Garden Route District Municipality, the GREF is the premier environmental platform in the Southern Cape.
Photo: Impact of invasive alien trees in Nels River. The Nels River, like many streams and rivers, is badly affected by invasive alien trees and deliver little or no surface water as a result. The state of rivers in the Garden Route interior is vital to rural communities and agricultural sustainability and requires a plan of action from authorities and private landowners to ensure their survival and optimal performance in the supply of fresh water from stressed catchments.
** 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.