Reflecting on the 2021 GREF Climate Change Indaba and Fire Commemoration event

Recalibrate resources to restore the balance in dealing with the environment

Ms Pamela Booth, Environmental Manager at Knysna Municipality and one of the facilitators at the Climate Change Indaba. (Photo: Cobus Meiring)

The Annual Garden Route Fire Commemoration event and Climate Change Indaba, including a field visit to the areas that were severely affected by the 2018 wildfire disaster near Karatara, in the Garden Route district, came to a close on Wednesday 9 June 2021. The event was hosted by the Garden Route District Municipality and the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, protocols and cautionary procedures, the event was a combination of face-to-face and virtual platforms. It was well attended with the Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), Ms Makhotso “Maggie” Sotyu, delivering the keynote address virtually from Pretoria.

In her address, Sotyu said climate change was a key concern within South Africa. The annual temperatures have increased by at least 1.5 times the observed global average of 0.65ºC over the past five decades and extreme rainfall events have increased in frequency. She said her department is finalising the climate change bill to enable a coordinated and coherent approach to addressing climate change across the spheres of society. It is expected that the climate change bill will strengthen climate change governance in the country.

Dr. Fanie Botha, a water resource specialist at Water Hunters, emphasises that South Africa must adopt a more proactive and even aggressive approach to water resource management. For example, innovative evaporation reduction methods should be considered. (Photo: Cobus Meiring)

Currently, the department is also revising the National Coastal Management Programmes (NCMP) as per requirement of the Integrated Coastal Management Act (ICM Act). The review of the NCMP will inform the review and development of the Provincial and Municipality Coastal Management Plans. The second NCMP will also focus on the ocean’s economy and the district-delivery model primarily aimed to address poverty and livelihoods support.

Reflecting on the event, the chairperson of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF), Mr Cobus Meiring, said the theme for the 2021 Garden Route Climate Change Indaba, “Adapt to a sustainable future“, was apt and relevant, and coinciding with World Oceans Day on 8 June, drew high-level attention and participation. He said the Indaba included several remarkable presentations that were of an international standard.

“The fact that the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), GREF and partners can host an event like this, with direct input from top-tier national (DFFE) and provincial (Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, DEA&DP, Western Cape) echelons and academic institutions, speaks volumes and demonstrated that the GRDM has the entrenched capacity to act and collaborate as a leading municipality when it comes to all matters environmental, including disaster management, climate change, planning, and risk reduction,” Meiring said.

“Slowly but surely the region is attracting more funding from various sources, and that is indicative of the trust foundation that has been consistent in the making over a sustained period.”

Meiring concluded: “An important message that came across from the Indaba was that countrywide, Covid-19 has drained away almost all resources formerly earmarked for vital interventions in the environmental sector, but, as the collective grow accustomed to dealing with the perpetual impact of Covid-19, we urgently need to recalibrate resources to restore the balance in dealing with the environment as well as Covid-19, because if we do not, we will create another and more significant climate-related crisis through important but one-dimensional funding allocation in dealing only with Covid-19 right now.”

People who are interested in viewing some of the high-profile presentations made at the event can view them on the video-sharing YouTube link:

Photo 1: Dr Kaluke Mawila – The newly appointed principal of the George Campus of the Nelson Mandela University (NMU), Dr. Kaluke Mawila, was one of the guest speakers at the Garden Route Climate Change Indaba held in George on 8 June 2021. (Photo: Cobus Meiring)

The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a regional forum and public platform for collaboration in conservation, environmental adaptation and community interaction.  It is a think tank for national, regional and local government, conservation bodies, academics, the media, landowners and land managers, active in the full spectrum of environmental matters in the region. 


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