- Plantation expansion
What this means for the Eastern Cape province
The South African government has collaborated with the timber industry in identifying land suitable for new timber plantations in the Eastern Cape, and has come up with a figure of 140 000 hectares.
The negative impacts of existing industrial timber plantations in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern and Western Cape provinces have already been well documented. It should therefore be anticipated that the establishment of new plantations on mostly community land in parts the Eastern Cape (formerly parts of the Transkei 'homeland'), will have far-reaching negative consequences for the both the local people and the ecology of the affected areas.
In particular, any new plantations will impact negatively on water resources, and therefore most likely affect the ecological functioning of the numerous rivers and estuaries that support the traditional subsistence livelihoods of local communities, and also reduce the availability of land suitable for livestock grazing and foodcrop production.
Environmental health and human health cannot be separated. The effects of worker exposure to the dangerous mechanical equipment and toxic pesticides and herbicides used in plantations, are not well documented. And when it comes to pulp and paper mills, the bleaching chemicals, process gases, emissions from treatment ponds, the bacteria and fungi on wood chips and sludge at such mills, all have serious negative implications for the health of both humans and ecosystems.
The industrial plantation agenda of government and the timber industry, presently being pushed in the region, needs to be closely scrutinised, and it should not be allowed to continue being implemented unless it can be established beyond any doubt that it will be the best long-term option for supporting the welfare of both the indigenous people and the wildlife of the Eastern Cape.
Timberwatch has held public workshops at the towns of East London, Ugie, Kokstad and Harding in order to raise community awareness of the dangers of allowing more destructive timber plantations to be established by timber, board and pulp companies such as PG Bison, Hans Merensky Holdings and Sappi on the beautiful grasslands which are the local peoples' birthright.See Plantation & Pulp mill awareness campaign and Life as Commerce - Certification Project