One step nearer for N2 Wild Coast road

2010/04/23
Taralyn Bro The Weekend Post

THE N2 Wild Coast Toll Road has moved one step closer to becoming a reality after the government this week gave its construction a tentative thumbs-up.

The issuing on Monday of a record of decision by the Department of Environmental Affairs authorising construction of the road is the latest in a long line of action – or inaction – around the mega-billion-rand project. Objectors now have less than a month to say why they believe construction should not go ahead. The authorisation has been granted as long as environmental concerns raised in the final environmental impact assessment report – released in December – are heeded.

More than 7800 submissions from the public were included in the report, which was started afresh in 2007 by CCA Environmental (Pty) Ltd after the original EIA was shelved in 2004.

If approved, the project will extend over roughly 560km between the N2 Gonubie interchange and the N2 Isipingo interchange (south of Durban).

Twenty-five new tolls will be built, mostly in KwaZulu-Natal.

The new route will be about 75km shorter than the existing N2 via Kokstad. Building cost was estimated at R6.4-billion in 2007.

NO to the toll road through the PCE!

I have no objections to the toll road running from Port Edward to East London to generate toll revenue for our government. Though thousands, mostly from KZN, have lodged complaints about the economic impact.

The real problem is government's insistence on bypassing the existing R61 route and unnecessarily destroying 16% of the Pondoland Centre of Endemism (PCE) - an internationally recognized, but tiny, biodiversity hotspot.

The touted reasons, of local development and eco-tourism, are blatant red-herrings, as she social consequences for local residents will be devastating due to their being cut off from coastal resources and commonages; while the *toll* road will also obviously drive local transport costs up.

The negative impact on the environment is acknowledged to be enormous: with the road destroying approximately 16% of the PCE's total 188,000 hectares in its wake; while secondary impacts - such as pollution and ribbon development that will surely follow - are not adequately considered in the EIA.

One can only conclude that the real reason is to provide road access to the strip mining at Xolobeni. The raw minerals will be transported to, and beneficiated in East London.

It's not difficult to see that the minister of environment is a "fox in the hen-house" - as she was previously the very minister of DME that approved the mining concession 2 years ago.

This is exactly the kind of short-term, unsustainable environmental encroachment that our Constitution is supposed to protect against; and a social and environmental disaster that blatantly contravenes South Africa’s commitments under the Convention of Biological Diversity.

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