Developer instructed to rehabilitate Baakens River site

Posted On Wednesday, 07 February 2007 02:00 Published by
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The authorities have instructed the Parson's Green project to rehabilitate a section of the upper Baakens River which they damaged during construction last month
The authorities have instructed the Parson's Green project to rehabilitate a section of the upper Baakens River which they damaged during construction last month.

Leon Els, the regional deputy director of the provincial environmental department, said on Tuesday that he had sent staff to assess the situation after being alerted by The Herald's story, and initial concerns raised by the NGO Wildline.

The department's assessment is that the damaged system is not in fact a wetland, as argued by Wildline. The channel was formed by the installation long ago of a berm and railway line on the eastern edge of the site, Els said. "But, although it is not a wetland, this does not negate the duty of care which the developer should have applied."

The site was rezoned in 1973 from agriculture to residential 1, prior to the implementation of environmental impact assessment regulations, to allow for it to become part of the Rowallan Park housing scheme. For this reason it was not possible for the department to stipulate the need for either an impact assessment or an environment management plan (EMP) for the 140-unit Parson's Green townhouse project, he said.

"The developer indicated at the time, however, that it would undertake an EMP.

"If that study had been done this sensitive area might have been identified and damage avoided. In terms of the duty of care principle, we are saying the developer must now do an EMP with the emphasis on rehabilitating this drainage channel."

The developer, Lerco Trading, has been instructed to stay away from the water course while the EMP is being done.

When The Herald inspected the site yesterday beds of reeds and soggy ground, both typical features of wetlands, were found. Wildline maintains the area would still have been a wetland even without the railway line because of the surrounding topography. It is the low point or catchment for all the surrounding rainwater run-off, Wildline chairman Arnold Slabbert says.

A wetlands expert from the water affairs department's East London office has over-ruled the initial assessment by a local senior official that the damaged area is a wetland, however, and has concurred with the environment department that it is a drainage channel.

However, senior water pollution officer Piet Retief, who made the initial assessment, said his department?s approach was the same regarding damage to any water course or resource.

"Besides the EMP that must now be done, they have piled a lot of debris in the water course and we have told them this must be removed to avoid down-stream siltation in case of floods."

Dr Mike Cohen, who has been appointed by Lerco Trading to do the EMP, said his plan would likely recommend indigenous grasses like kweek and Stenotaphrum secundatum to rehabilitate the site.

"An artificial wetland has been established in the drainage line. The system does play an important role in feeding the Baakens and in supporting species of frogs and other animals. I think we can recreate that," he said.

Daily Dispatch

Publisher: I-Net Bridge
Source: I-Net Bridge

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