BURNING ISSUE: Climate change-related disasters have a very significant impact on the Southern Cape economy and the region is in need for more business investment and healthy, prosperous agricultural and forestry industries - Photo: Pixaby
NOVEMBER marks the month when a year ago over 100,000 hectares on both sides of the Outeniqua Mountains burnt to tinder, with several lives lost and millions of rand of damage to infrastructure and grazing, resulting in significant loss of income to the region, as well as precious jobs, according to Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).
“Taking into account prevailing drought in the northern and western parts of the region, combined with the 2017 Knysna, Plett and Hessequa District wildfire disasters, damage done to the local economy is an enormously difficult and frightening calculation to make.
“Although the Southern Cape is a popular destination for those choosing to retire, or for holidaymakers and adventurers, the region is in need of new businesses and a healthy agricultural sector,” says Meiring, adding that a lot more focus should now be placed on adequately preparing our region for a changing climate and relating risks.
Garden Route District Municipality - with the support of Garden Route Environmental Forum - continues to explore climate-change risks and developments, and will be doing a lot more in this regard during the course of 2020 in order to gear up for a challenging and unpredictable environment.
Climate change and continuous fire risks impact in many ways, including a marked reduction in air quality, increased risks in terms of water quality and quantity, lower levels of national and international investment, slow but irreversible loss of biodiversity, and a generally lower quality of life for all residents.
“In as much as climate change is clearly irreversible, there is a huge responsibility on both regional authorities and regional landowners to take ownership of what they can manage, and to find meaningful ways to work towards a higher quality environment to ensure a better, more sustainable future,” concludes Meiring.
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* 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 and serve as a catalyst to drive climate adaption practices in the Southern Cape, while striving to establish a better-coordinated approach to environmental management.
* The SCLI is a public platform and think tank for landowners and land managers with an interest in invasive alien plant management, water stewardship and land management in general. SCLI is supported by the Table Mountain Fund - a subsidiary of WWF SA. SCLI also manages the Secretariat of GREF.