Dr Diek van der Zel, Strand
Referring to the report (“Alien invasive pines fuelled Knysna fires”, Bolander, September 12), I’d like to point out to readers that this is a one-sided and biased report by environmental scientists, who because of their expertise and interest only covered the climatic, weather and fuel factors that contributed to the Knysna fires.
They did not cover other contributing factors such as “expansion of the urban-wildlands interface, increased sources of ignition that are linked to growing populations” ( mentioned in their paper as exerting influences of higher importance in other areas of the world) and historical factors such as ownership changes, estate developments, fire readiness in such a fire-prone area, local, regional and national political changes, and many other influencing factors.
As a forester, the mention of alien and invasive plantations is hair-raising (ain’t we all alien and invasive here?), because I know, after 40 years of national forest service in South Africa, of the sound basis of plantation establishment of a new multi-million industry in our country, providing thousands of work opportunities, planting at the time on land no farmer wanted, concomitant with examplery catchment and plantation fire management services.
Plantations were established in the particular Knysna area already in 1916.
Foresters had the normal , annual and recorded duty to remove all invaded plantation trees on areas under their domain.
With the new South Africa in 1994 and changed ownership and/or management agencies, this attitude and compliance was sadly terminated.
Let us be realistic when we evaluate such disasters, just about a year ago, and carry out much improved alert and focused land management and efficient and consistent fire protection management for us to be able to continue to live peacefully in this Eden part of our beautiful country.