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Floods, fires, droughts – the Garden Route is feeling the brunt of climatic changes

Biomass from uprooted invasive alien plants in rivers and catchments during floods has a devastating impact on infrastructure and the environment. Picture: GRDM

Biomass from uprooted invasive alien plants in rivers and catchments during floods has a devastating impact on infrastructure and the environment. Picture: GRDM

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Cape Town - After experiencing unprecedented wildfire disasters, prolonged drought, and severe flooding over the years, the Garden Route has felt the brunt of climatic changes – this is set to be a key topic at the Garden Route Environmental Management and Climate Change Indaba today.

In order to better prepare the region for what lies ahead in terms of climate change, the annual indaba was taking place in George under the theme, Preparing the environment for a changing climate, where stakeholders will discuss, share insights and prepare for future climate change-related impacts along the Garden Route.

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It is being hosted by the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) and the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

GREF programme director Cobus Meiring said: “The Garden Route is increasingly feeling the consequences of climate change – which is predicted to be on the increase. The region is still reeling from the environmental and socio-economic impact from the 2017 fires, and is still subject to drought in many areas in the Klein Karoo and coastal plateau.”

Meiring said environmental management came under the spotlight following the Durban flooding disaster as many people would suffer from its deadly and destructive impact for years to come.

“The government, as well as landowners and resident communities, would do well to learn from and act on what happened. That set of impacts also apply to the flood-prone Southern Cape and areas elsewhere along the coast and the interior of South Africa,” Meiring said.

Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said although the natural disasters in the Garden Route region had been particularly severe in recent years, caution should be exercised when ascribing natural disasters to climate change as events such as droughts, floods, fires, and storm events were inherently part of the diverse environment of the Western Cape.

Bredell said many lessons had been learned from dealing with the natural disasters along the Garden Route that would be applied in disaster risk management in future events.

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“These responses will be key in countering the slow increase in the risk posed by natural disasters that is attributable to climate change,” Bredell said.

He said events like the Indaba were key to mainstream climate change response across sectors.

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