Allocate money for clearing of alien invasion

Richard Whiteing, Friends of Vlakkenberg

It is of great concern that no significant funds have been allocated in the City of Cape Town’s budget for 2018/19 or the Integrated Development Plan for the clearing of alien invasive plants in catchment areas for the dams supplying water to the city.

There is strong scientific evidence that shows that a huge amount of water is consumed by alien invasive trees each year. The former mayor, Patricia de Lille, herself claimed last year that 38 million cubic metres was lost annually to alien trees.

This is more than the entire capacity of Steenbras Upper Dam. The result is a loss of about 10% in run-off to the dams every year as well as a significant loss to groundwater.

A mature pine tree can suck up to 200 litres of water a day and a blue gum can take up to 2 000 litres a day. Compare that to the 50 litres per person a day that we are allowed under Level 6b restrictions.

In addition to saving scarce water resources, the clearing of invasive aliens has a number of positive benefits including job creation, so necessary with about 30 000 jobs lost in agriculture due to the drought.

Clearing of alien vegetation also leads to biodiversity conservation and ecotourism. At the same time, it reduces the fire risk, and we all saw what happened last year when runaway fires in dense areas of alien vegetation occurred around Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

Clearing alien invasives is arguably the cheapest form of water augmentation.

R1.5 billion has been allocated to water augmentation in the new City budget; surely at least 10% should be allocated to clearing invasive alien vegetation? Or is the City just intending to leave this crucial task to Working on Water and SANParks?

The City may argue that the catchment areas are outside of the city’s boundaries and thus will be contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act. However, the City has proposed drilling for water outside its boundaries.

We therefore urgently appeal to the City to allocate a significant part of the water augmentation budget to invasive alien clearing.