Climate change threat to Plett, Garden Route

John Harvey

A NEW study has found low-lying areas in Plettenberg Bay are increasingly susceptible to flooding, which experts believe is a direct result of climate change.

Professor Geoff Brundrit, formerly the special adviser on oceans and climate change for the Department of Environmental Affairs, has warned that the complex estuarine system to the east of Plettenberg Bay, where the Bitou and Keurbooms rivers enter a single lagoon, is particularly at risk.

This area of the picturesque holiday town is bordered by a number of expensive homes, with prices often fetching well above R2-million.

Brundrit was tasked by the government with finding out whether the heavy storms of 2008 and 2009 that battered the country’s coastal areas could be linked to climate change.

“The final exit to the sea [from this area] is very dynamic and continually changes its channels, some close to residential areas. Any future flooding in this area – and it will come – will pose distinct challenges to residents and authorities alike,” Brundrit said.

According to figures from the Eden District, flooding has cost the region more than R2-billion since 2004.

Eden District disaster management head Gerhard Otto, who has assisted Brundrit in his research, said the effects of climate change were being felt not only in Plett but in a number of areas on the Garden Route. “We have experienced much more intense, short periods of rain, for example 224mm in 24 hours.

“In addition, with especially the coastal areas being more developed, the run-off is much faster and the state of our wetlands does not help to buffer the run-off patterns either.”

 He said disaster rehabilitation funding of more than R13-million had been received for the Bitou Municipality from the Western Cape government.

“This will be used to implement disaster response and rehabilitation works in the specific area.”

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