Development threatens fynbos

2012-11-09 10:31
Local unchecked development of sensitive areas is one of the key factors threatening fynbos species, Dr Andrew Turner has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Local unchecked development of sensitive areas is one of the key factors threatening fynbos species, Dr Andrew Turner has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Local unchecked development of sensitive areas is one of the key factors threatening fynbos species, an expert has said.

In the past farming was mainly to blame for the destruction of fynbos biomes in Western Cape, but the threat has expanded to development of the low-lying areas of the province.

"Historically they [farmers] have transformed the majority of the lowland areas, but it's not just them, it's also conversion to housing, people with holiday homes, mining - there're various human activities which have been done in a way in the past which has been incompatible with the survival of the local biodiversity," CapeNature scientific manager Dr Andrew Turner told News24.

One of Turner's specialities is the biodiversity of the Western Cape and he was at pains to point out that correct planning can ensure that development has a limited impact on the endangered fynbos.

"There are ways if you plan correctly to have your cake and eat it, so to speak, where you can have your housing areas; your industrial area, but site them in a place where they're going to do the least damage."

One of the industries blamed for environmental degradation has been the mining industry.


Environmental groups have long lobbied for the industry to take more responsibility for the environment during prospecting and mining activities.

The Financial Provisions for Rehabilitation and Closure in South African Mining: Discussion Document on Challenges and Recommended Improvements report commissioned by the WWF highlighted concerns the ecological degradation in mining areas and the country's response to the looming environmental crisis.

"Currently there's a massive proliferation in the issuing of prospecting licences: Fifty-four percent of the land area of Mpumalanga is under some sort of mining licence. The mining issues are issues that affect a huge part of South Africa," said Christine Colvin senior manager for Freshwater Programmes at the WWF-SA.

In 2010 the Western Cape High Court interdicted Maccsand from mining, despite the company's mineral rights.

The case was welcomed by MEC for environmental affairs and development planning, Anton Bredell.

The report also highlighted the inconsistency in Environmental Management Plans (EMP), especially in the use of water resources.

"Some EMPs will have very detailed numerical modelling of the aquifers at the mine site and others will just have thumb sucked figures that they've done on the back of a matchbox," said Colvin.


Turner said that it was important that conservation be integrated into all spheres of society so that the "biological reality" was understood.

"We haven't achieved enough integration of conservation thinking into all the sectors of human endeavour; there's still a long way to go.

"What we want to do is that we don't want people to think about conservation or climate change as separate from what they do in their everyday lives. Whatever you do should take the biological reality into account," he said.

It is estimated that SA as a water scarce country will suffer acute effects of climate change, particularly as the population continues to expand.

"It is functioning ecosystems that we all depend upon and into the future - for future generations are also going to need clean air and clean water," said Turner.

He feels that SA has good legislation in place but that the importance of biodiversity has to be more mainstream.

"There is a growing awareness, but the job's not done yet: We've got is a lot more to do, and this is the focus of our biodiversity mainstreaming."

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