LETTER: Let’s find solution for Tokai

2016-11-01 06:00

I am a local botanist with 40 years’ experience here in the Cape. My passion is biodiversity conservation and people – the “and people” part is critically important because conservation is a human construct. Without the support of people, conservation does not nor cannot happen.

I am also a proud member of Parkscape. So, it was with great interest that I read the article “Save our park’s fynbos” in People’s Post (25 October).

By now all those stakeholders concerned with the conservation of Lower Tokai should be aware of a number of facts, yet I was distressed to read how the Friends of Tokai Park (FOTP) have misinterpret what Parkscape is attempting to do. None of the Parkscape committee members are against having fynbos rehabilitation over much of the area; what we are campaigning for is that Sanparks adhere to the agreement reached in the Tokai and Cecilia framework management plan. In this framework Sanparks were going to have “transitional plantings” (TPs) in certain fynbos areas – to continue to provide safe and shaded walking areas for the many people who use Lower Tokai. It was also agreed that the last of the pines in Lower Tokai would be felled in 2025. For unknown reasons, the TPs have not yet occurred and the felling of the pines has been brought forward to this year.

I and the core committee of Parkscape have never been against the felling, but we are against the cloak-and-dagger manoeuvres between Sanparks and others to do so without public consultation, which, I might add, is part of a previous agreement and a requirement in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, which states: “Public participation is one of the most important aspects of the environmental authorisation process. It is considered so important that it is the only requirement for which exemption cannot be given.”

The reality is that the issues around rehabilitation of fynbos at Lower Tokai are much more complex than Dr Rebelo states. Only a very few plant species have, or may have, seeds stored in the soil seed banks. Many of the other species that once occurred there will have to be re-planted and become established (all at great cost). Then the area will have to be subjected to several ecological burns over the next few decades. Finally, conservation is only successful when measured over very long periods of time, and we know that small, isolated areas (islands) such as Lower Tokai will be subjected to genetic drift. An added factor hindering the long-term re-establishment of fynbos at Lower Tokai is the rain of additional nutrients which “poison” fynbos plants.

I firmly believe there are other solutions to the bickering and back-biting, if only the FOTP, Sanparks and other stakeholders would sit and come to a consensus, taking into consideration the broader community requirements. We need to find African solutions to the problems and not foist Western conservation ideals onto local people.

Prof Eugene Moll, Kirstenhof

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