SANBI, through its Biodiversity and Land Use Project, is partnering with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning to combat the illegal clearing of indigenous vegetation in the Cape Winelands District Municipality.

Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell welcomed the support and said indigenous vegetation was under serious threat in some areas of the province due to illegal clearing.  “Environmental damage is lasting and often irreversible.  Not only for our sake, but also for the sake of future generations, it is important to protect and manage our natural heritage.”

The main offences being targeted were the illegal clearing of indigenous and critically endangered indigenous vegetation.  Alleged offenders who conducted such activities were liable to be issued with a compliance notice or arrested in serious cases, he said.  Failure to comply with a compliance notice was a criminal offence and fines of up to R5m or 5 years’ imprisonment may be imposed on conviction of an offence.  In addition to such penalties, property and vehicles could be confiscated.

Both the SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority will be integral role players in the prosecution of biodiversity offences.

Botanist and specialised law enforcement officer Phil McLean said: “The unique indigenous vegetation in this area provides a number of economic opportunities and sustainable livelihoods for locals and business.” However, he added that “illegal clearing of indigenous vegetation, over-consumption of water and pollution severely compromise the ecosystem”.

The project is managed by Nithzaam Albertyn, a regional manager, whose specialised law enforcement officers will assist in the operations of the project.  The manager is in the process of recruiting graduate interns for the purpose of assisting the team and training in environmental law enforcement proficiency.

This District Municipality, which has about 650 000 inhabitants, was chosen as it is situated within two globally recognised biodiversity hotspots, the Cape Floristic Region and the Succulent Karoo.  Much of this region’s biodiversity is associated with fynbos species, a Mediterranean-type, fire-prone shrubland.

The funding is provided by the Global Environmental Facility, through the United Nations Development Programme.

Adapted from article by Nicola Daniels, Cape Times, 15 February 2019, page 4.

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