Richards Bay Karpowership environmental authorisation challenged in appeal process

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The appeal is directed to Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy in a process which will suspend the EA until the appeal is finalised, adding yet another delay to the project which has encountered numerous obstacles over the past 3 years. The appeal is also being supported by three additional organisations with similar objectives – Natural Justice, the Green Connection and Oceans Not Oil.

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The Appeal automatically suspends the EA, in terms of law. This is the second time that the Turkish owned company has attempted to obtain an EA, with a previous attempt being refused, initially by the Department, and then by the Minister on appeal. Despite being given clear directions on how to remedy the defects in it applications, Karpowership, via its appointed Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP), a company called Triplo 4, continues to make fundamental errors, omit required processes and take illegal steps as alleged by the appellants.

The appeal raises numerous points about the defectiveness of the prescribed public participation process, including lack of adequate consultation with local fishing communities, whose livelihood, cultural ways of life and food security may be impacted.  This stemmed partly from the inadequate reports submitted in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Minister herself, at an earlier stage of the process, found that consultations with affected local fishing communities were woefully inadequate and did not meet the minimum prescribed legal standard. This was not rectified in the latest attempt to obtain the EA.

There has also been lack of consultation around the controversial biodiversity offset, which has been shrouded in secrecy and brought in at a very late stage, with no consultation held to explain what this entails. This purported offset mechanism, widely reported on by media, whereby the company allegedly bought a Madaka game farm (located approximately 100km inland from Richards Bay, near Ulundi) for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. This is supposed to compensate for the biodiversity loss the project will cause to the sensitive estuarine ecosystem in and around the port, in turn devastating critical fish nurseries that stock at least 300km of coastline.

The appeal goes into detail highlighting errors in the climate change impact assessment. Despite being located in a high risk area in terms of the scientifically forecast storm surges and increased cyclone risk brought about by global warming, the assessment is practically silent on how these risks are quantified or to be managed. Other reports such as the avifauna report, noise report and marine estuary and socio-economic impact reports are also meticulously challenged in the appeal.

The appellants argue that the Karpowership is a flawed and expensive approach to addressing the electricity crisis, and has the potential to lock the country in to an exorbitant contract for many years to come. Should the appeal be dismissed, the appellants would be able to approach the High Court in a review application.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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