National Alien Invasive Species week highlights the damage caused to our natural resources. - News | DEA&DP

National Alien Invasive Species week highlights the damage caused to our natural resources.

7 October 2019

Western Cape Government launches Ecological Investment Infrastructure Framework (EIIF) to address the risks of alien invasive species infestations and to ensure the long-term water and climate resilience.

This week marks the start of National Alien Invasive Species week from 7-11 October 2019. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP) recently held a workshop with key partners to address investment in ecological infrastructure in the Western Cape.

The integrity of the Province’s ecological infrastructure is severely threatened due to the infestation of alien invasive species. Alien invasive species significantly impact climate change, air and water quality as well as the vulnerability to disasters such as wildfire, floods and drought.

As a result of the infestations in the Province’s catchment regions, research has shown significant current water losses due to the impacts of alien invasive plants. It is estimated that the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) currently loses about ±38 million m3/annum through these impacts (equivalent to the capacity of Wemmershoek Dam).

Marlene Laros, Director for Biodiversity and Coastal Management at the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning says, “The volume of water lost could increase to the capacity of the Berg River Dam (130 million m3/annum) by 2045,  if efforts of clearing invasive alien plants were stopped. Our Department is proud to be launching the Western Cape EIIF as a transversal and multi stakeholder initiative to systematically manage the climate and water risks of inadequate investment into ecological infrastructure. Over the past two years, we’ve seen an increase in expenditure on disaster management, as a result of wildfires and the drought Therefore, coordinated and proactive investment in ecological infrastructure makes sound economic and financial sense.”

A recently completed business case conducted by the Greater Cape Town Water Fund shows that restoring the ecological infrastructure of priority catchments by removing invasive alien plants is a cost-effective and sustainable means of augmenting water for the Greater Cape Town Region.

“Catchment restoration is significantly more cost-effective than other water augmentation solutions, supplying water at one tenth the unit cost of alternative options”, says Laros. In addition to security in water supply, catchment restoration brings in other benefits such as work creation, community empowerment, reduced fire risk, the restoration of native fynbos biodiversity, and climate change resilience.

The Western Cape Ecological Infrastructure Investment Framework is being developed as a flagship project that aims to facilitate the collaboration and co-ordinate between all relevant sectors including CapeNature, national and provincial government departments, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Academic institutions, landscape initiatives, the private sector and NGOs.

The framework will serve as a key informant to promote and coordinate conservation, restoration and alien clearing activities whilst delivering goods and services (e.g. water), jobs and safe living conditions.

“Connecting the Sustainable Water Management Plan and the Provincial Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan with the Provincial Strategic Plan, the Western Cape EIIF will represent a “low to no risk” water and climate resilience strategy with significant co-benefits to ecosystems, people and the economy,” said Laros. 

Anton Bredell, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Development Planning and Local Government, says alien invasive species have a detrimental impact on water catchment areas and therefore the program to tackle the problem is vitally important.

“We are spending millions every year across the province in ongoing efforts to tackle the scourge. The Western Cape biodiversity entity CapeNature has spent R39.4m over the past four years in tackling the problem of alien vegetation infestations on CapeNature managed land. Clearing alien vegetation yields greater water security and environmental sustainability. It’s been estimated already that alien clearing in the catchments in the upper Berg River, releases up to 26.5 million cubic meters of additional water per year into the Western Cape river system. The work will continue despite the implications of continuing budget cuts from national treasury to provincial level.”