South Africa: alien vegetation complicating firefighting efforts – winde

South Africa: alien vegetation complicating firefighting efforts – winde

18 January 2017

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South Africa — Alien vegetation is complicating firefighting efforts in the Western Cape, economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde said in a statement on Tuesday.

Vegetation not cleared by landowners posed a “major” threat of spreading wildfires to neighbours, he said.

This after the Western Cape department of public works said firefighters battled 19 fires across the province on Tuesday.

“One of the challenges is landowners who have not managed their land correctly [in terms of] clearing large stands of invasive species,” he said.

CapeNature spokesperson Marietjie Engelbrecht said alien vegetation burns much quicker and at higher temperatures than indigenous fynbos.

On its website CapeNature said alien vegetation worsens drought in an area.

“Many alien plants consume more water than local plants, depleting our valuable underground water resources,” an article on CapeNature reads.

Economic cost

News24 reported last Wednesday that more fires were to be expected in the Western Cape as the province feels the effect of climate change.

Winde also said he had requested a detailed report on the financial implications of the fires.

“The economic cost is not limited to the financial damage. Businesses will not be able to operate while repairs are underway. This could impact bookings, bottom lines and most importantly, jobs,” Winde said.

Fires in Somerset West damaged several hectares of vineyards while fires in Paarl burnt down several historic buildings.

Agri Western Cape spokesperson Jeanne Boshoff told News24 on Wednesday that the vineyards could take years to restore.

“It depends on how far the vineyards have been damaged, if the roots are affected etc, but, [after] you replanted a vineyard, you will have a small harvest after three years and only a full production after five years,” Boshoff said.

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