Hole in the Wall
In this picture, you can see where they're busily building the turning circle. They've removed hundreds of cubes of topsoil, and have got to the stage where they return from dumping it with a load of sabunga to replace it, and they're even busy compacting it with a steam roller.
It's also in the approximate region where they think to put the picnic site.
See where the litter is going to irretrievably blow into the pristine cliff forest, river, and out to sea?
The Department of Economic Development, Environment & Tourism (DEDEAT) has approved this ecocidal insanity.
Please click on the link to sign our petition to SAHRA:Read more
28 October 2020
South African Heritage Resources Agency
111 Harrington Street
For the attention of: SAHRA CEO, SAHRA Council & Chairperson
URGENT APPLICATION: HOLE IN THE WALL – NATIONAL HERITAGE SITE
Hole in the Wall is one of the most uniquely beautiful locations on earth and yet, while it is unquestionably an undeclared World Heritage Site of “Outstanding Universal Value”, it has unfortunately not yet even been accoladed with National Heritage Site status.
And it is not just the unique natural arch rock formation that is so special, but the peaceful surrounds comprising rolling green hills, indigenous milkwood forest, river valley grasslands and the Mpako River itself, which all contribute to its Sense of Place.
The local municipality’s Integrated Development Plan for 2017 – 2022 mentions no fewer than 7 times that Hole in the Wall is indeed a Heritage Site, but that it is not yet so declared. And it warns of the danger of uncontrolled developments, and goes further to state that it must be declared a Heritage Site.
Unfortunately the Sense of Place is about to be severely and permanently impacted by the inappropriate imposition of a tarred roadway, widened and extended to the edge of the hillside overlooking the attraction, in such a way that vehicles peer over the edge and into the river valley, and are visibly imposed into the setting. Though not yet tarred, this is already especially severe at certain times of the day when the sun’s reflection glares off the windscreens.
Besides the glare, the overwhelming feeling from the vicinity of the Hole in the Wall itself, the nearby beaches and river valley, is of jarring intrusion into what should be a secluded, peaceful and free natural environment, as Nature intended.
Furthermore, the Dept. of Economic Development, Environment & Tourism (DEDEAT) has approved an ill devised notion to situate picnic tables on the grassy area over-looking Hole in the Wall. This is such a terrible idea, as besides further imposition into the setting and degrading the Sense of Place, the hillside is in very close proximity to the river and directly exposed to the prevailing North-East wind, which will cause litter to be blown straight into the river and washed out to sea, and pollute the river valley and cliff forest on either side of the river.
Despite numerous pleas to DEDEAT going back over two years, and a hand-delivered letter from the community to the road contractor’s community liaison officer some two weeks ago, the Department of Transport (DOT) who are carrying out the contract, have ignored the community’s request to meet onsite to discuss the simple mitigation measure of curtailing the roadway, turning circle and parking area by some two hundred metres at the watercourse before the last hillside, and using a far more appropriate, attractive and sheltered location for the picnic site. They stubbornly refuse to hear our pleas, and are hell-bent on their course of senseless destruction.
From this location, which is unquestionably the optimal location for the picnic site, they have raised the roadway by some 4 metres and totally impacted the views from all angles. The road should end before the culvert pipes.
This goes beyond even the aesthetic impact, and will also have a hugely negative socio-economic impact by cheapening and commoditizing the attraction solely for day-tripper busloads and vehicles, which would provide zero to very negligible economic benefit to the community, while at the same time paving the way for further inappropriate developments.
Whereas, if the attraction and surrounds are declared a National Heritage Site, and fenced and curated appropriately as a Nature Reserve, with (possibly) a nominal entrance fee (reduced or waived for SA citizens), demarcated nature trails and kayak hire, it will create long-term sustainable benefits for the local community and also minimise as far as possible the inevitable damage to the indigenous forest and surrounds.
As I wrote to the department recently, “the devastating impact can easily be mitigated, while at the same time saving money and providing an invaluable opportunity for creating local employment, whilst also preserving the allure of the attraction’s Sense of Place, seclusion, privacy and freedom.”
In closing I would like to stress that this is a very urgent situation as DOT are planning to complete tarring, and thereby sealing the fate of our beautiful Heritage Site, before the end of the year.
Please let me know if you have any further questions I may answer.
Trusting in your understanding and looking forward to your most urgent response.
&c... Read more
Despite the hand delivered letter two weeks ago, from the community, requesting an onsite meeting with the roads contractor to discuss the wishes of the community, they're busy at work again today. Carting the topsoil away, somewhere, no doubt to replace it with a compacted layer of sabunga prior to tarring...
I guess they believe that if they finish the job in time, all we'll be able to do is accept it.
"Sabunga" is a South Africa colloquial name for a type or variety of sand and / or gravel, from weatherized dolerite. The weathered rock most widely used for road construction in South Africa.
So I phoned Zweliwinile, the "right hand" of Komkhulu, and then went to fetch him. We met with stony indifference from the onsite supervisor, but another meeting has been arranged for tomorrow at our village headwoman's Komkhulu. Following which we'll go to our Tshezi Chief's Komkhulu. The big "Great Place".
For interests sake, the Tshezi are the ruling Bomvana clan of the Jalamba-Gambushe line, with European shipwreck ancestry. They rose to prominence when the Xhosa King Hintsa took Nomsa of the Tshezi's as his Great Wife. The land they occupy in the main is the region around Hole in the Wall and Coffee Bay, whereas Bomvana land extends from the Mbashe River to the Umtata River, and inland some 60km up to Mqanduli.
Some positivity, hopefully: I met Unathi Pali, who is working for Dept. of Transport at the view site itself. He's the firstborn son of our Tshezi Chief, Ngwenyathi. It's some years since I met with Ngwenyathi, but I asked Unathi to please inform his father of the issues and planned mitigations which I tried my best to convey in my broken Xhosa. At the very least I will have made an impression as a mad umlungu raving about the angry "amathongo".
Luisah Teish, author of the book Jambalaya, states "As we walk upon the Earth, our feet press against the bones of the Ancestors on whose shoulders we stand."
These ancestors, going back to antiquity are called Amathongo in Xhosa.
Anyway. My immediate priority today was very much disrupted, and I still have yet to complete the motivation to SAHRA for emergency declaration of Hole in the Wall as a national heritage site. Our best hope for the future of Hole in the Wall.
The current "Integrated Development Plan" for King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality (Link: KSD IDP 2017-2022) mentions no fewer than 7 times that Hole in the Wall is considered a Heritage Site, but that it is not yet proclaimed. And it further warns of the danger of uncontrolled developments.
Yet despite investigating our complaint about the parking lot overlooking the Hole, DEDEAT takes absolutely no cognizance of the disastrous impact on the "Sense of Place" to the surrounds and view site overlooking the Hole in the Wall. Instead, they've sanctioned raising the road level by approximately 4 metres above the watercourse, and widening the roadway to over 15 metres to provide "bus bays" and parking, so that people can enjoy the privilege of seeing the Hole from the comfort of their vehicles. At what cost?
This past Saturday was the busiest day we've seen since March and the lockdown, and at around 15:00 the glare from half a dozen windscreens, alone, was blinding! And the views from the hillside itself are impacted from millions of angles. The "whole" is discarded in favour of a myopic front-row view of the Hole, only.
Dept. of Transport have apparently instructed that this view site be tarred and completed before the new year. But they have yet to complete the actual road leading there. The far more necessary 10km stretch between Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall has been abandoned for the past two years, after they completed a total of 2,4km of tarring, and left another 1km tarred on one side only. Not to mention the road (DR18031) from Mqanduli to Coffee Bay is in an absolutely appalling state, and should be a FAR higher priority.
Joni Mitchell wrote Big Yellow Taxi in 1969, and it's more relevant today than ever. In her words:
"I wrote Big Yellow Taxi on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart…this blight on paradise."
So anyway, they're tarring the road between Hole in the Wall and Coffee Bay at the moment, and I've been tempted several times to post about the swathe of destruction in its wake for the width of the road and it's graded and cambered 80km /hour specification. (Like, they're cutting 10m or more off the tops of the hills!)
In a tiny little coastal village like this, a sweet little cobblestone road would be far more appropriate, but I couldn't work up the energy to mount a futile protest against the inevitability of it. But when they started working in the village here in Hole in the Wall towards the end of last month, I knew I had to try and do something to prevent them from destroying the "sense of place" and natural beauty of the hillside overlooking Hole in the Wall itself. So I talked to the road crew and they pointed me to their supervisor.
That hillside was saved from development by DEDEAT (Dept. of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism) in 2006, when the new hotel development attempted to site themselves there. There was another development about 10 years ago that they stopped, too. And the investor who had fenced and started building without an EIA or any sort of permission was subsequently forced to remove all traces. He must have lost a lot of money.
Now, however, the spatial development initiative has received funding from national government to fast-track development in this area, so some civil servant has drawn a pen-line from A to B without any thought about environmental and ecological impact; or more to the point, any kind of aesthetic integrity.
A year ago, almost exactly, I mounted an attempt to get DEDEAT to assist with having this particular hillside (and it's counterpart on the other side of the river) demarcated as a no-go area for any development, to protect the environs for future generations to enjoy its unspoilt beauty. The kindly response I got was to the effect that I should try to engage with the community to do so, and they wished me luck. Unfortunately I work for a living, and haven't had the time or resources to undertake such a time-consuming mission. Now it's too late.
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Pretty much everyone will recognise this beautiful cover version by Counting Crows:... Read more