COMMUNITIES LODGE FINAL OBJECTION
Source : Group writers SA
Publication : Mercury
Date : 10 November 2010
Author : Tony Carnie
N2 toll 'an act of supreme folly'
PLANS to build a toll road along the Wild Coast have been attacked as "an act of supreme folly" which would destroy one of the country's most valuable natural assets, mainly to enrich road construction companies and an Australian mining group.
This is according to lawyers representing communities on the Wild Coast who have lodged final legal objections to prevent the N2 Wild Coast toll road from going ahead.
The objection has been lodged by attorney Cormac Cullinan in response to previous submissions by the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral).
The contentious toll proposal was approved by the national Environmental Affairs Department earlier this year, but several groups have appealed to the environmental |affairs minister to scrap the project.
In the latest submission, Cullinan disputes claims by Sanral that building a new toll road along the Wild Coast would help to create jobs and uplift rural communities in Pondoland.
He represents the Khimbili communal property owners' association and members of the Sigidi, Baleni, Mdatya and Amadiba communities.
"The Wild Coast communities who we represent and who live in these areas have clearly and repeatedly expressed their frustrations at the inadequacies of the public participation process and their opposition to the N2 toll road," said Cullinan.
"They know that the decision to authorise construction of the greenfields sections of the proposed N2 will expedite the mining of the magnificent coastline in that area and threaten their way of life."
Cullinan's comment on mining refers to the Australian group Mineral Resource Commodities (MRC), which was recently granted approval to mine titanium and other heavy minerals from the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast.
He said the titanium mine at Xolobeni was close to the route of the proposed N2 toll road and that mining was unlikely to be profitable if the mining company had to bear the cost of building a major road to transport mineral ores away from the Wild Coast.
"Our clients do not oppose the improvement of the N2 road between Durban and East London, or making it a toll road if that is necessary to fund the upgrading. Their opposition is to the decision to divert the existing N2 through the tranquil and beautiful area of the Wild Coast in which the AmaMpondo people live, and to impose this decision on them without proper consultation and against their wishes," said Cullinan. He likened the economic value of the Wild Coast to Table Mountain in Cape Town, which contributed enormously to the local economy.
"In this case, the exceptional beauty of this coastline and the unique culture of the AmaMpondo, together with the unique ecosystems and plants endemic to the area, have combined to create an area of immense natural beauty which will be severely degraded by constructing the highway through it.
"The Wild Coast is justifiably famous throughout South Africa and many parts of the world, and its value will continue to increase as other wild places elsewhere become degraded? Driving a major toll highway through it is an act |of supreme folly and is wholly unnecessary."
According to Cullinan, the environmental affairs minister had no legal alternative but to scrap the toll road proposal because the environment impact assessment had not considered the full socio-economic impacts of tolling.
There had been two Constitutional Court cases (Fuel Retailers and Wary Holdings) which made it clear that the minister was obliged to consider socio-economic factors such as tolling.
Cullinan appealed to the minister to visit the Wild Coast to meet the people and to experience the beauty of the area before making a final decision.