GEORGE NEWS - Michael Peter, executive director of Forestry South Africa, said the extent of damage to plantations caused by the current fires must still be assessed.
Peter said in last year's fires in the Southern Cape, 17 600 hectares of commercial timber plantations burnt, of which 12 700 hectares were totally destroyed. This will cause an annual loss in the Southern Cape timber industry of sawn logs worth R121-million, which would have produced sawn timber worth R285-million. "To replant the area will cost R90-million. A total of 2 000 jobs were lost as a result of last year's fires."
He expressed hope that some of the R1,5-billion announced by government for aid to fire damaged and storm affected areas in the country, will be channelled to address last year's fire damage.
Catchment area damage
According to Stephan Gericke of Tikketai, a vegetable supplier for Woolworths, farmers are concerned about their water supply in the next year or two.
"The mountain was scorched and all the vegetation that holds water and ensures a gradual release into fountains and rivers has been burnt. If we receive 100mm of rain now, 90% of the water will run off into the ocean. Under normal circumstances this water would have lasted two months."
Water usage for firefighting
Municipal Manager Trevor Botha said the total water usage by the firefighting crews and air support is estimated at approximately 3,5 megalitres over a period of 10 days. "The latter had no impact on the daily average water demand in George and the loss of vegetation in the catchment area may be considered advantageous because it would promote increased surface runoff during rainfall periods.
"Water treatment processing will however require close monitoring since the raw water may contain higher counts of dissolved solids, and our process control staff are aware and able to deal with the situation."
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