Wild Coast road to take toll on nature?

Posted On Monday, 08 December 2003 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Go-ahead for controversial route scuppers move to create conservation area

Infrastructure IndustryProvincial authorities have scuppered efforts to create a mega conservation corridor along the unspoilt Wild Coast by putting pressure on national government to drop its plans to declare a national park in the Pondoland region.

Provisional approval for the construction of the N2 Wild Coast toll road has revived long-standing arguments about balancing the needs of development and conserving the pristine environment on the coast.

Until last week there was some uncertainty as to whether the route would be approved, because the national environmental affairs and tourism department had wanted to proclaim a national park in Pondoland, which would have ruled out construction or mining in the area.

On the other hand, the Eastern Cape government wanted the route to promote economic development in the region.

The controversial N2 toll road, which was given provisional approval last Thursday, would have gone hand-in-hand with the proclamation of a national park as a means of boosting tourism infrastructure and improving access to the coast.

But the approval of the N2 toll road, without the park being proclaimed, will fuel rumours that the highway is being built to service the mining projects.

As late as September, the national director-general of environmental affairs, Crispian Olver, said the department was poised to declare a national park even though 10 provinces had not backed it.

Eastern Cape wants the route, proposed by the Wild Coast Consortium, for economic development, including a mining development on the coast.

Australian-based mineral sands explorer Mineral Commodities argues that mining could be carried out in defined areas without affecting the coast or the ecotourism industry.

But conservationists say that the development will affect the coast's natural ecosystem.

The province seems to have won the battle as the construction of the toll road was approved, subject to conditions listed in the record of decision that aim to minimise the possible negative impact.

These include the implementation of an environmental management plan, monitoring and auditing compliance with the plan, setting up an environmental monitoring committee and continuing public consultation.

The Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (Wessa) says it intends to appeal against the record of decision.

"Dr Olver has indirectly given Mineral Commodities, the Australian mining company, the green light to mine on the Wild Coast," says Cathy Kay, Wessa's national director for conservation.

"The mining project's viability hinges on the existence of an excellent road network as land haulage costs represent the biggest individual item in the cost structure. Dr Olver has just solved this cost structure for them."

In approving the toll road, the environmental affairs department argues that the construction of the road is an integral part of the social and economic development of Eastern Cape.

"The benefits of the road include better access to markets, education, social and health services, nature reserves and tourist destinations, the development of small and medium-sized businesses, training and employment opportunities and impetus for the Wild Coast Spatial Development Initiative," Olver says.

The proposed road starts at the Gonubie interchange near East London and ends at the Isipingo interchange south of Durban.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 05 November 2013 12:04

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