Conservation & Environmental Matters


------ Forwarded Message
From: owen <owen@soft.co.za>
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 09:24:39 +0200
To: <sawac@geasphere.co.za>
Subject: the people or the paper industry

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21 September, 2007

The Constitution says we are all entitled to water, and when the choice
becomes necessary, who does the forestry industry think will win - the
people or the paper industry?"
Simon Evered, White River

Today, on the International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations -
we appeal to the delegates of the current Stellenbosch 'FSC plantations
certification symposium' NOT to endorse and promote the high impact
monoculture plantation model through FSC certification.

Consider the impacts on Water.
South Africa is a water scarce region - it is not responsible to promote
vast plantations of high water consumptive timber species.
There are currently several cases where the impacts of timber
plantations on the water resource are leading to conflict between
plantation companies and other land users. The town of White River in
Mpumalanga province is in a water crisis situation - the two main dams
feeding the town virtually empty. 80% of the town's catchment area is
planted to eucalyptus and pine plantations - dramatically reducing
stream-flow. Residents of the town are starting to demand to industry
that a significant proportion of the timber should be removed in order
to make some water available for use by the towns residents. "The
Constitution says we are all entitled to water, and when the choice
becomes necessary, who does the forestry industry think will win - the
people or the paper industry?" (Simon Evered, White River)

Another case is of the farming community in Schoemanskloof (Mpumalanga,
South Africa). Higher lying streams and fountains which used to supply
these farmers with water year round have become progressively drier as
more plantations was being established in the catchment areas. The
farmers consolidated their efforts and an appeal was made to the
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry to examine the situation and
introduce mitigation measures. Industry responded with promises to
undertake clearing of timber in sensitive areas such as riparian zones
and wetlands. As yet no significant amount of timber has been removed
outside the normal harvesting regime and the Schoemanskloof farmers have
to adapt to the dehydrated condition by pumping water from the Crocodile
River, which is compounded upstream by the Kwena dam.

Another clear example of how the region is being impacted upon by timber
plantations is the way in which the world renowned Sudwala caves have
dried out since a plantation was established in its upper catchments.
The caves and adjoining rainforest have become visibly and significantly
drier during the past 10 years. The FSC certified plantation company has
denied that the plantations impact on groundwater recharge to these
systems and demand proof before any action can be decided upon. The
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has launched a broad
investigation of groundwater impacts - yet no information or reports are
available to date. Cave management has resorted to artificially wetting
the caves in an effort to control dust.

>From the examples cited above is should be clear to the reader that
industrial timber plantations have a significant negative impact on
stream flow - and should not qualify for FSC certification if principle
10.6 be properly applied. As these impacts on stream-flow is well
documented and available to FSC certifiers - we wonder how such a large
proportion of South Africa's timber plantations could have been
certified during the past decade.

Apart from the severe pressure fast wood plantations exert on the local
water resource, the timber species used is invasive to the extreme -
with no natural predators these trees are continuously spreading onto
natural / non planted areas adjacent to managed timber plantations.
These trees need to be permanently managed at cost to the adjoining non
timber producing land owners.

The large scale of these plantations is impacting most severely on the
grassland biome of Southern Africa. Grassland animals and plants are
increasingly being threatened by habitat destruction - they can not
adapt and live in timber plantation conditions.

Though we are not opposed to a system which promotes change towards a
low impact, diversified forest model through management and oversight -
we do not agree the current certification system which seems to promote
large scale 'fast wood' monoculture plantations as a responsible land
use model - even though clear evidence to the contrary exist.

Philip Owen
GeaSphere
Mobile: 0730980867
www.geasphere.co.za