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Interventions planned to restore ecology after Knysna fires

The fires were brought under control last week after rampaging across Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

A resident of Concordia, an informal settlement in Knysna, looks overhead at a water bombing helicopter. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

CAPE TOWN – South Africa National Parks (SANParks) is encouraging residents whose properties were damaged in fires that gripped parts of the Southern Cape to opt for indigenous plants when replanting their gardens.

The fires were brought under control last week after rampaging across Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

WATCH: Driving through the Knysna fires

Following an aerial survey, the Garden Route National Park found it had only sustained minor fire damage thanks to the indigenous plants of the Knysna forest.

SANParks’ Nandi Mgwadlamba explains: “It didn't touch any part of the park. This is because indigenous forests are wetter, they are Afromontane and afro temperate."

Mgwadlamba says there are various interventions being planned to restore the local ecology, including reaching out to Knysna residents.

“We are donating trees, we are encouraging residents to plant indigenous trees and to try and see if they can't spot an invasive alien species in their own properties.”

She says park officials have joined local municipalities to help identify alien vegetation.

The town is slowly rebuilding after runaway fires engulfed parts of the Eden district, killing seven people and gutting hundreds of homes.

Thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes.

Over 600 structures in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay have been destroyed.

Meanwhile, South African Tourism has urged the public to support upcoming events in Knysna to help give the Garden Route town a boost after June’s devastating fires.

Nearly 2,500 jobs in the region have also been affected.

SA tourism’s Sisa Ntshona says the region’s local economy needs a kick start.

“There’s an opportunity to actually do things differently, to start looking at sustainability and eco-tourism. But also, more importantly, there’s also what you call inclusive growth, where now coming out of this crisis we’re starting to include township-based businesses, B&Bs that can also start to add capacity.”

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)