Environmental Services

Government gets tough on Invasive Aliens

Government gets tough on Invasive Aliens

Well actually, Government is getting tough on landowners who have invasive species on their property and individuals and businesses who deal in listed species.

Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) (Act 10 of 2004) – Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) regulations, which were gazetted on 1 August 2014 and became law on 1 October 2014. The AIS Regulations list 4 different categories of invasive species that must be managed, controlled or eradicated from areas where they may cause harm to the environment, or that are prohibited to be brought into South Africa.

An alien clearing operation in the Boldand

Until now, many landowners have simply ignorred their legal obligations to clear their properties of invasive alien vegetation.  Landowners cite the high costs of alien clearing and the levels of alien infestation on state property as reasons for not prioritising alien clearing in their annual operational plans and budgets.  The Gazetting of the new regulations in August 2014 has seen the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa,  sign off a budget of R200 million over the next three years to build up the Department's capacity to regulate invasive alien species. This is in addition to R4.2 billion budget to control these species through the internationally renowned Working for Water Programme over the same period.

“The costs of controlling invasive alien species are very high. We need to prioritize our efforts to secure the greatest returns on investment.  An obvious example would be the pine trees from Europe, Asia and North America that are invading our mountain catchments, and could have unaffordable consequences for water security, as they use far more water than the indigenous plants they displace,” said Minister Molewa.

Besides the obvious culprits like the large invasive alien trees we see across the landscape, South Africa has tens of thousands of alien species, most of which are not necessarily a problem.  Whilst a  relatively small percentage of these have become invasive, the impact of these invasive species on our indigenous biodiversity and the ecosystems that support livelihoods and socio-economic growth is significant.  It is estimated that the impact of Invasive Species runs into hundreds of billions of Rands per annum and the impact is rapidly increasing.

IAP FactsOne of the 559 invasive species listed in the Regulations is a Famine weed (Parthenium hysterophorus), which is an inconspicuous, daisy-like plant from South America that is spreading across northern KwaZulu-Natal.  It has the potential to invade all bit the driest parts of South Africa, and most of Africa.  Fields of famine weed, as the name implies, will wreak economic, ecological and health havoc.  Neither South Africa’s stock nor game species can survive in these invaded areas.  Crop production will be unaffordable.  Allergies and skin legions in humans will abound, and respiratory diseases will worsen.  It is truly a Frankenstein plant, an unwanted and relentless gatecrasher in our country.

In one research study by Professor Michael Samways of Stellenbosch University, it was shown that the shading of water bodies by just one invasive alien plant, the black wattle (Acacia mearnsii), could cause the extinction of more than half of the dragonfly and damselfly species that are only found in South Africa.

The AIS Regulations have been through extensive public consultation, and have secured agreement from various key industries, including the nursery industry, landscape industry, plantation industry, game ranchers industry, agricultural industry, pet-traders industry, bass and carp angling representatives and other key groups.

Alien Clearing ProjectOther key national Departments and Provincial Authorities have been part of the development of the Regulations, and have supported their promulgation, including the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation, and the Department of Health.

Minister Molewa warned that invasive species rival climate change in terms of the potential consequences of their destructive tendencies. 

“This is not a battle that Government can win on its own. We need to work together with all stakeholders to combat the scourge of invasive species.  These Regulations, coupled with the investments made through the Working for Water programme, have the potential to reverse the cancer of invasions in our country,” she said.

NCC's Conservation Business Unit is currently implementing three big alien clearing initiaitives.

  1. The Helderberg Land Users Incentives Project sees NCC operating as an 'Implementation Partner' for the DEA Natural Resource Management Porgramme.  As part of this project we are managing and administering the payment of the wage component of alien clearing activities for private landowners for the Helderberg Basin in the Western Cape.
  2. NCC is also managing the operations of WWF's Water Balance project in the Vyeboom / Riviersonderend regions.
  3. NCC is managing the operations of the Pioneer Foods funded 'People Working for their Environment Programme' in the Eastern Cape in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

Over an above these larger alien clearing projects, NCC is offering a range of related services, including:

  • The mapping of alien species on private farmland to inform the costing of alien clearing projects.
  • The implementation of smaller alien clearing projects
  • The provision of Health and Safety management plans and project H&S auditing
  • The provision of accreddited training to Alien Clearing Contractors
  • Property assessments for the declaration of invasive alien species for property transfers

If you have any questions in this regard, Please contact Andrew Purnell - andrewp@ncc-group.co.za .


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