Call for action over fynbos removal
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Cape Town - The Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (Wessa) says it is alarmed by the developments on the slopes of Blaauwberg Hill where a section of fynbos was removed, seemingly without approval, for a marquee to be erected.
This follows a report about activities on the Klein Melkbos farm, which is owned by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.
Patrick Dowling, Wessa’s Western Cape head of education, training and public capacity-building, said Wessa urged the relevant departments in the City of Cape Town, provincial and national governments to follow up on the matter to send “a strong public conservation message”.
Dowling said the hill and the area around it were of high conservation importance especially since they overlooked two World Heritage sites – Robben Island and Table Mountain.
Wessa had worked with the city and local organisations, including the Friends of Blaauwberg Conservation Area, to try to retain the natural heritage of the hill.
“The sort of seemingly unregulated behaviour reported (in the Cape Argus) flies in the face of the overall vision for the hill which is a global biodiversity hot spot and home to critically endangered Swartland Shale Renosterveld.
“Irrespective of ownership there are rigorous requirements for land owners to follow before they can plough up virgin land, especially where this is of an endangered habitat type,” Dowling said.
There were two laws that “clearly state that it is illegal to plough virgin land or land that has not been cultivated within the last 10 years without the necessary permit. It is a criminal offence to plough virgin land and is punishable by law (jail and/or up to R5-million fine and a criminal record)”.
CapeNature spokeswoman Liesl Brink said the land owner would have needed to apply for a permit from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.
Reverend Lesetja Masekwameng, the Cape Town priest at the church, said in an e-mail to the Cape Argus on Monday: “Please take note that we will not be responding to the questions that you sent our way.” - Cape Argus