Langebaan Lagoon could suffer massive environmental disaster

May 13, 2010 by: admin

A “shocked and embarrassed” Public Works Minister, Geoff Doidge, says he was unaware his department was constructing a R100-million boat yard for the SANDF’s Special Forces in Langebaan Lagoon without the necessary environmental approvals.

He has now asked his Water and Environmental Affairs counterpart, Buyelwa Sonjica, to set up a joint task team from their departments to undertake a “thorough” investigation.

Sonjica’s officials are furious that Doidge’s department reneged on its promise last year to stop work on the project, other than to stabilise the roof of the boat yard, until the required environmental authorisations were approved.


And the breaking of this commitment also caused Sonjica unwittingly to give an untrue answer to a parliamentary question by the DA in March.

Doidge’s department has already paid a R93 000 fine for starting the project without doing the necessary environmental impact assessment and without authority to work in a protected area: the West Coast National Park.

Langebaan Lagoon is also proclaimed as a internationally important bird conservation site under the Ramsar Convention, which South Africa has signed.

“Green Scorpions” – environmental management inspectors – were told during a site visit last August that the project had been started without applying for environmental approval “as a result of time constraints”. However, it has been on the cards since at least 2006.

After the inspectors’ visit, Water and Environmental Affairs deputy director-general Joanne Yawitch sent Doidge’s department a formal letter, notifying it of her intention to issue a compliance notice under the National Environmental Management Act because of the “unlawful” construction and contravention of “numerous provisions of the protected areas legislation”.

The notice would have forced all work on the project to stop until environmental approvals were given.

But spokesman for Sonjica’s department Albi Modise said it had decided not to issue a compliance notice because the public works department (DPW) had responded promptly with an appeal.

“The decision not to issue the compliance notice was also based on the fact that DPW has a firm undertaking that work would only continue on the roof stabilisation and that other activities would cease pending the outcome of the appeal.

“The department recently became aware that DPW has reneged on their commitment… it appears as if the DPW has proceeded in direct contravention of its undertaking and failed to inform this department until recently.

“This is viewed in an extremely serious light and will be taken into account in determining enforcement action moving forward.”


By John Yeld
Environment & Science Writer

Source http://www.iol.co.za

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