Yes, even the Overberg countryside has to deal with air pollution threats.
Our district may offer wide, open spaces and colourful landscapes. Still, many industries operating here make our air a little less clean. Agricultural activities, wildfires, and car emissions also result in a higher concentration of air pollutants.
The Western Cape government took a close look at the Overberg’s air quality in their 2018 report, the State of the Environment Outlook.
They found most complaints revolve around offensive odour, dust and smoke (emitted by burning waste and due to veld fires).
And the Overberg also deals with extensive carbon emissions, caused mostly by electricity, followed by the use of diesel.
Reason for concern? Yes. Especially this World Environment Day (5 June 2019), when experts raise awareness around air pollution (the 2019 theme).
The good news is that our Overberg nature offers some solutions. In the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area, these solutions are certainly not easily seen from our public roads.
They’re our indigenous forests – and in particular, our Milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme) forests.
In fact, we have seven small Milkwood forests dotted about the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area. These forests are considered ‘Extremely Valuable’ – not least as they’re protected under the Forest Act. But also because the trees play a key role in improving air quality.
In the Nuwejaars, most of these small forests are found close to wetland edges or near our rivers (the Nuwejaars River and its tributaries). That’s because they like the deep calcerous sand or neutral sand you usually find in these riparian areas.
It’s our role to protect these patches. The trees can’t be removed. And the many invasive trees that threaten them are being removed, as funding becomes available. (We’re working with key partners like WWF South Africa and Flower Valley Conservation Trust, to remove invasive trees).
Our Milkwood forests offer other benefits, too:
They help stabilize riparian areas (unlike invasive alien trees which are easily uprooted during a flood). They allow for the better movement of animals and birds in the district (in particular in and next to cultivated areas). And they’re simply majestic – with some of these trees growing up to 8m tall.