11 January 2017

South Africa: More Fires Expected in Western Cape As Drought Worsens

Photo: VWS Wildfires
A wildfire blazes near Simon's Town in the Western Cape.

The Western Cape could expect more wildfires, while drought conditions were set to worsen as the province felt the impact of climate change, authorities said on Wednesday.

"Most definitely, we can expect more fires, a longer fire season and more intensive fires. All of this can be linked to climate change," James-Brent Styan, spokesperson for Local Government and Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell, told News24.

In the past week, fires in Somerset West have caused more than R60m damage, while wildfires destroyed several historical buildings and two farms in Paarl on Monday and Tuesday.

Styan said drought conditions were expected to continue in the province.

"[We are expecting] more of the same, drier conditions will remain and increase. Rain fall may decrease," he said.

Meanwhile, Western Cape Agriculture MEC Alan Winde said higher temperatures could be expected in the province.

"I have no doubt about more fires in the Western Cape; it is going to get much drier in the Western Cape because of climate change. It is just going to get hotter and hotter," Winde said.

Winde said that the province was preparing for the effects of climate change.

"We have adopted a climate change plan to specifically assist the agriculture industry. It is going to be tough, but we are trying our best," he said.

Call for change in behaviour

Styan also believes that expected population growth would increase the pressure on the province's water supply.

"The other major problem [facing us], is that we are expecting massive population growth. Up to 15 million more people in the Western Cape in the next 10 years. Cape Town can expect another 1 million people by 2023," he said.

"There is no more rain and only increased demand," Styan added.

Styan said the long-term solution lay in members of the public changing their behaviour.

"We rely on the public [to address this issue]: speak to your families to not start fires and be cautious. If the weather conditions look windy, perhaps don't have a barbeque that day. Behaviour change is the big thing; we need people to think differently," Styan said.

Styan said there provincial government was concerned about the financial implications of the fire season, which is set to end in April.

"We are very, very concerned: there are three more months of fires ahead, and the fires are very expensive," he said.

"We are limited by funds, which are increasingly becoming less and less."

Source: News24

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