N2 route along Wild Coast ‘to benefit locals’

From the "who do they think they're fooling" department:

Daily Dispatch 2008/11/18

THE economic spin-offs of a proposed N2 toll road through the ecologically sensitive Wild Coast outweighed potential damage to the environment and loss of wildlife diversity.

This is according to a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) r eleased last week for public comment.

The report, with a 69-page executive summary, was undertaken for the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

The release is the latest step in the proposed construction of the motorway from Buffalo City through Transkei to Isipingo south of Durban, cutting out 85km of the existing N2 route. It will be interspersed with seven main toll plazas.

But the proposed motorway has environmentalists in a froth, who said together with planned mining of sensitive coastal dunes in the same area it could have a “disastrous” impact.

The report itself also stated that “the proposed new road would result in residual impacts of high significance in terms of loss of habitat (and) fragmentation of habitat”, and that the road would be ecologically sustainable if “secondary impacts could be controlled and conservation measures put in place”.

It added: “Overall, it is considered that the potential social benefits of the proposed project, as assessed along the entire route, and if enhanced as recommended, would outweigh the potential negative impact. ”

But John Clarke of Sustaining the Wild Coast initiative raised concerns over current capacity to manage the road and environment effectively.

“Based on my experience our current environmental governance systems are simply not meeting the present challenges, let alone being ready to take on the additional challenges that a massive motorway will bring,” he argued.

Environmentalists are also concerned that a portion of the road between Lusikisiki and Port Edward would bisect the Pondoland Centre of Endemism (PCE) and pass through sections of the proposed Wild Coast/Pondoland National Park.

The PCE has recently been recognised as one of 235 botanical global hotspots of plant diversity.

Combined with proposed mining in the area, the impact could be severe, Clarke said.

“The report says it is likely that other proposed projects in the area would further exacerbate the loss of habitat,” Clarke said.

“Reading the EIA for the mining proposal together with the EIA for the N2 Wild Coast toll road makes it quite obvious that the cumulative impact of both projects would be disastrous.”

The report said, however, that the economic spin-offs for the Eastern Cape could be substantial.

During construction phase, some 6800 direct and up to 21300 indirect jobs were expected to be created, with 900 permanent jobs and some 18000 indirect jobs created after the road was built.

It also found that once the road was operational, economic income would be improved and sectors such as agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, construction and trade and tourism would enjoy increased income.

“The estimated present (2007) value of this additional income is approximately R15829 million.”

It would also making driving through the former Transkei – notorious for the high number of accidents as a result of stock on the road – a lot safer, the report said.

“The probable tolls listed in the report means that in this highly impoverished area, a road which is meant to benefit the local people, is going to cost (a driver) at least R70 between Ntafufu and Port Edward,” said Bishop Geoff Davies.

“This road will further isolate the present commercial centres of Bizana, Flagstaff and Kokstad and will hardly benefit people in that region,” said Davies, who heads the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute.

The full EIA can be viewed in various towns including the East London central library and Mthatha public library. There are also a number of public open days with EIA teams and Sanral representatives, starting from Monday. For the full study see www.ccaenvironmental.co.za.


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