Cape town - 101230 - A Third fire on Signal Hill photographed from Cape Town - Photo: Matthew Jordaan

SA has been given R30 million in international funding to develop effective strategies against runaway wildfires in the fynbos region that threaten lives and properties every year.

Fynbos covers most of the Western Cape and although fires are an essential ecological element, runaway fires can severely damage or destroy livelihoods and natural resources – and are likely to become even more damaging as global warming bites.

Inaugurated at a workshop at Kirstenbosch last week, the GEF Fynbos Fire Project is a joint initiative by the SA government, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank-administered Global Environment Facility (GEF), which has made a grant of $3.5m available.

It will be implemented on behalf of the national Environmental Affairs Department by a non-profit company that is part of the FFA Group.

Baseline data used in the project – compiled on a five-year average – shows there are 2 000 wildfires covering 220 000 hectares every year.

Of these, 420 burn through nearly 75 000ha and are classified as “catastrophic”.

The chairman of the project steering committee, Dr Christo Marais, told the inauguration that the government had allocated an operational budget of R383.5m to its Working on Fire programme for 2012/13. - Cape Argus