Karpowership SA was awarded preferred bidders’ status for three gas power ship projects totalling 1220MW in South Africa’s controversial Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP). Their projects have struggled to reach financial close since July 2021 and face massive push back from environmental groups. The groups have challenged Karpowership SA late and revised EIA application for the 450MW Richards Bay floating gas power plant.
According to civil society organisations – including the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), groundWork, The Green Connection, Natural Justice, and the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) – South Africans must be wary of this deal which, if approved, could have far-reaching implications. Read more
The current ruling party, the ANC, stands to benefit financially through the gas supply value chain. Read more.
- Karpowership has offered to donate a game farm to the government — a controversial arrangement that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife describes as ‘unchartered territory’.
- The game farm is being offered as ‘ecological compensation’ to make up for temporary damage to the ‘irreplaceable’ and globally significant bird habitat around Richards Bay.
The details of the proposed deal were outlined in the environmental impact assessment (EIA), which was published in May but came up again in Karpowership’s recent interview with eNCA journalist Annika Larsen.
Asked if Karpowership was happy with some of the offsets that had been “directed towards you”, chief commercial officer Zeynep Harezi said: “I think I know what you’re talking about — the offset for the Richards Bay black heron bird livelihood — we need to buy and donate a game reserve to DFFE [the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment]or…”
At which point she faltered: “Can I take that back? Because I actually am not super informed about it.”
Larsen: “You don’t know whether you were directed to buy a game reserve from a certain person or anything like that?”
Harezi: “No, we did whatever the DFFE requirement was.”
But, as improbable as it sounds — promising a game farm to secure an environmental permit — that is effectively what the deal entails.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, which manages both Ithala and the Richards Bay Estuary — where Karpowership’s floating power plants will be anchored — described the proposal as “unchartered territory” in a letter sent to DFFE last month, but said it would support it.
The game ranch
The 1,750-hectare Madaka Game Ranch was supposed to go on auction on 23 March, with an opening bid price of R9-million.
Days before the auction, however, the owners withdrew the property without explanation.
“There’s been rumours around that we’re moving,” one of the owners, Izak Kirsten, said in an Instagram post two weeks later. “It’s a long-short story, something that happened very quick.”
AmaBhungane has established that at some point before the auction, Ezemvelo introduced Karpowership to Swiss Safari & Eco Tours, which owns Madaka.
“I have no idea how they ended up with us,” Kirsten said. “Madaka was advertised on auction. Then we got a call out of the blue. Ezemvelo notified us of Karpowership.”
The property, which includes three lodges, is valued at R30-million to R40-million, according to Kirsten, but up to R72-million with the game and all the assets included.
“Negotiations are going on at the moment,” Kirsten said, adding that Karpowership was undertaking its own valuation. “We didn’t get any proposal on [the price].”
But Karpowership will only buy the game farm and donate it to the government if it is granted environmental authorisation for its Richards Bay floating power plant project in the form of permits that it has been trying to secure since 2020, and which it desperately needs to get its R280-billion project off the ground.
No Plan B for waterbirds
If Karpowership’s 450MW project in Richards Bay goes ahead, three ships will arrive next year: two electricity-generating powerships and a floating storage regasification unit.
For the next 20 years, these three ships will be moored alongside one of the world’s most important sites for migratory birds, which will have significant consequences.
“The risks … include habitat loss, collisions, electrocution, light and noise pollution and disturbance by the movement of people, machinery and vessels,” Karpowership’s environmental consultants wrote in its latest EIA.
“Of these, the elevated risk of mortality due to collisions with overhead powerlines are a major concern for larger species, particularly waterbirds … including threatened species such as flamingos and pelicans.”
To limit the damage, Karpowership has proposed a biodiversity offset, a controversial scheme whereby developers are allowed to cause damage to one part of the environment provided they make up for it by restoring another.
None of this is strictly by the book……
Author: Susan Comrie
This is an extract from a main article with more information Susan Comrie for the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.
Read more on this exclusive story from the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism HERE