A decade ago, the Cape Town municipality allocated several million rand to start the process of clearing alien pine and wattle trees growing across about 50,000ha of the mountainous water catchments around the site of the new Berg River Dam, about 80km from the city. The money came from the municipality’s coffers and was paid to the state-owned Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), which was building the dam, and had to manage a five-year catchment clearing programme. But the job was not finished. Once the dam was done, the TCTA withdrew from the site and abandoned the clearing process after about two years, leaving the unspent money unaccounted for. The land surrounding the dam is state-owned, and according to the Biodiversity Act the state is responsible for clearing the aliens and restoring its catchments. But while the funds in question came from a local government authority (the City of Cape Town) and should have been spent by a national government agency (the TCTA), it was th...

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