Ben Levitas writes that during this time of assessment as to the causes and prevention of fires on Table Mountain, it is essential to put the blame squarely on the right shoulders. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Ben Levitas writes that during this time of assessment as to the causes and prevention of fires on Table Mountain, it is essential to put the blame squarely on the right shoulders. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

LETTER: Don’t play blame-game with Table Mountain fire probe

By Opinion Time of article published Apr 29, 2021

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As someone who has walked on the mountain nearly every day for the past 40 years, I have a deep interest to preserve the beautiful flora and fauna treasure we’ve been bequeathed and prevent any further fire destruction from re-occurring.

During this time of assessment as to the causes and prevention of fires on Table Mountain, it is essential to put the blame squarely on the right shoulders.

Man has a great ability to project blame onto nature.

The blame starts and ends with the actions of people, whether it starts as a planned burn or as a result of irresponsible person starting a fire, it invariably is as a result of human intervention.

Increasing homelessness is a growing problem on the fringes of any urban sprawl.

Homeless people start fires to keep warm and cook.

A small detour off many paths will reveal a sleeping place for a homeless person.

Perhaps a larger and oft overlooked problem are the day visitors, the vast majority of whom use it for harmless recreation like walking their dogs.

But there are those who use the mountain to smoke marijuana and I have witnessed many of them starting fires.

Even though they love and revere nature, the effects of the marijuana make them careless and slow to react.

Although there is a no-fire rule on the mountain it is widely ignored and there is no policing.

The only times I have seen policing is after a crime is committed and then only for a day or two.

There is an almost total absence of park rangers and when you find them they are sitting in large groups in the picnic area.

I have only been stopped only once by a group of about five rangers asking for my walking permit – they always congregate in large groups instead of breaking up into pairs.

The rangers almost never leave the Deer Park picnic areas and rarely do they patrol.

There is no supervision of rangers and I am not sure what function they serve.

The public needs to be educated as to the functions they serve and clearly they also need to be better trained to identify undesirable people and practices.

While people cause the fires alien vegetation fuels them.

It is far too facile to blame the fires only on alien vegetation.

What is particularly interesting with the recent fires, in the City bowl at least, is that the Pine and Eucalyptus forests were least affected and are largely intact and that it was the fynbos that actually served as the fuel.

Another area that the National Parks Authority needs to improve on is the eradication of fast growing alien vegetation particularly Port Jackson bushes.

This could serve as a huge opportunity not only to cleanse the mountain of exotics but offer employment to thousands of workers.

The existing efforts of the Parks board are far too infrequent and far to sporadic.

There is one further human activity that is should be controlled by the rangers and that is the collection of medicinal plants as I have often witnessed ‘muti’ collectors pursuing their activities unhindered.

In summary, the Parks can offer gainful employment to thousands of people as long as they are properly trained and supervised.

* Ben Levitas, Oranjezicht.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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