Knysna rebuilding environment following fires

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Efforts are continuing to reduce soil erosion, following the massive June fires in the Knysna area in the Southern Cape.

Last week, heavy rains caused mudslides along the N2 and other roads in the area. The Garden Route Rebuild Initiative steering committee has briefed Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, on its work to mitigate the problem.

Zille was in Knsyna to attend a seminar hosted by the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative (GRRI). She established the GRRI soon after the fires, with their main aim to render assistance to those affected as well as to oversee rebuilding and the rehabilitation of the environment.

Meeting with various stakeholders, Zille received good news that the environment was on the mend. Efforts to minimise the impact of soil erosion caused by the loss of thousands of hectares of forest and fynbos is also proceeding well.

“Coming here is a real joy to me because I saw the plans on paper and here I see them being implemented.  This is really cutting edge stuff, especially the replanting on the mountainside to prevent erosion to capture indigenous seeds on the mountain, prevent the regrowth of alien species and secure the future of the people living here,” Zille said.

However, landowners raised concern about alien vegetation. Alien plant species contributed to the spread of the June 7th fires. Resident, Makkie Scheepers, says that while she’s happy with the efforts to stop soil erosion, much more needs to be done to get rid of the alien plants.

“If it wasn’t for those blankets and sausages I think there would’ve been a lot of damages so they’ve done a good job there.  The frustrating part is just that there is not a body to get the thing rolling to get the alien plants out,” she said.

Dr. Hildergarde Fast who heads up the GRRI, says hundreds of millions of rand is still needed to further assist in the ecological recovery of the area.

“We’ve put forward a very robust, coherent application to the NDMC for funding, we’re going to other departments like the Dept. of environmental affairs to say can you help with some of the environmental projects and we also have a business fund set up in Knysna, which is attracting funds from businesses which are saying how can we assist.”


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