Picture: An aerial shot of the Knysna Waterfront. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

CAPE TOWN - The Knysna economy has been hit hard by the Garden Route fires last year but is now on the road to recovery, said the Western Cape Government. 

Wednesday June 7 marked a year since the devastating Garden Route fires which destroyed a large part of Knysna and claimed the lives of many individuals. The fires did not only claim lives but took a knock on the economy as well.

According to Knysna Tourism, after the fires, it took a lot from the tourism department and municipality to assure people that Knysna was still standing and had something to offer. 

Notably, Knysna is solely dependent on tourism and the tourism sector was not directly affected by the fires. 

“There were still hotels and places where people could stay”, said Knysna Tourism. 

As Knysna picks up the pieces, Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde on Thursday paid tribute to the lives lost in the fires and those who worked to ensure that the Garden Route recovered from this disaster. 

The Minister said that while there is a long way to go, the generosity of corporates and government departments has managed to do important work. 

These armed forces  worked together to minimise further risks and ensure that disaster funding was received. A project management office was also reportedly set up in emergencies like this. 

Take a look at some of the projects, funding and support offered by the Western Cape Government in the past year:

The Department of Local Government and Environmental Affairs , Provincial Disaster Management:

Properties with asbestos were identified and property owners instructed to remove the rubble safely. However, some owners still dumped asbestos on municipal land, and in April 2018, the Department of Local Government transferred R2 million to the Eden municipality for the safe removal of asbestos.

Hosted two Thusong outreach events where residents were able to access a range of government services including those required to replace lost documents like IDs and birth certificates and to apply for pensions and UIF.

The national Department of Environmental Affairs launched a hydro-seeding project, which seeded 90 hectares of land and created 45 jobs.

An alien removal project, funded by private and public funds, was initiated to create firebreaks and thereby reduce future fire risk.

The Department of Social Development:

- Additional R1 million in funding made available for trauma counselling and additional social workers, who conducted surveys with over 1500 affected people in the wake of the fire.

The Department of Human Settlements:

- R18 million spent on installing 135 serviced sites at White Location.

- In addition, the Department is also currently finalising contracts to restore 45 subsidised houses which were damaged in the fire, as well as to construct 55 new houses for qualifying fire-affected households, at a cost of R13 million. This will ensure that qualifying residents will be better off after the disaster than they were before.

The Department of Economic Development and Tourism:

- In the wake of the fires, businesses and tourism suffered, which had an impact on jobs. The skills development work stream, led by DEDAT prioritised four areas: tourism, construction, business support and environment.

- 30 people completed a hospitality course and a coding course, offered by UWC, was also made available.

Currently supporting in developing a comprehensive tourism strategy.

The Department of Agriculture:

- Agricultural department officials visited the area, and conducted assessments of the needs.

- R1.6 million was allocated for livestock feed, assisting 42 farmers with fodder for their animals.

The Department of Education:

- Assessment of, and provision of support to scholars affected by the fires.

The Department of Health:

- Provided health care services during the incident

- Ensured the safe evacuation of all patients at Knysna hospital

- Established two active emergency sites where emergency cases were treated and referred.