Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:52 am
Ezemvelo head faces jail over Balamahlanga wetlands destruction
Published: Monday, 2014/06/30
PUBLIC officials, engineers and consultants involved in the destruction of the Balamhlanga wetlands in the Pongola catchment area could be jailed for up to 10 years, or be fined up to R10million, if they are found guilty of violating environment legislation.
According to a document seen by sister paper Beeld, the CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Dr Bandile Mkhize, is included in this list of people, and has been warned he could go to prison if it is found the wetland was destroyed with his knowledge and approval.
Rapport newspaper reported yesterday that the Balamhlanga wetlands is a protected area in terms of Ezemvelo’s own provincial legislation.
Ishaam Abader, deputy director-general of the Department of Environmental Affairs legal and law enforcement unit, said in the document it came to his attention that Ezemvelo had appointed construction workers and engineers by order of the Department of Agriculture to drain the wetlands and bulldoze the area to eradicate the so-called indigenous reeds in a R25 million project.
Abader wrote that the Green Scorpions (the law enforcers of the Department of Environmental Affairs) and the Department of Water had visited the wetlands on June 12; and had the next day ordered the entire project to stop immediately.
The investigators found:
a large canal had already been dug in the wetlands, fed by smaller canals running into it in the shape of a big fish skeleton;
the excavations, which started in the first week of February, had already destroyed most of the wetlands, the indigenous flora and aquatic fauna;
apart from the excavations in the wetlands, a large part of the area had been converted into a construction site with roads and camp; and
the parties involved could not show a water licence or environmental approval for the project to the Green Scorpions.
Abader added the so-called “alien reeds” in the wetlands, which feeds the Mholo pan, are actually indigenous to the area.
“It is clear that the aim with the excavating of the wetlands was not to remove the reeds, but to drain the wetlands.”
Several environmental organisations last week said they are planning to lay criminal charges with the police against the parties involved.
Abader said he was seriously concerned that this activity was undertaken by a government department that is supposed to conserve the environment.
Mkhize had not responded to requests for information by the time of going to press.
Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:47 am
Thanks PennySA for posting
Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:01 am
Tue Jul 01, 2014 12:31 pm
What is going on with KZN these days?
Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:45 pm
The cookie jar has put in an appearance!
Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:19 pm
Wildlife body ‘is spoiling wetland’
The Mercury Tony Carnie
EZEMVELO KZN Wildlife is helping to rip up and drain a large natural wetland near Jozini at a cost of R25 million – apparently without any permits or detailed environmental impact studies. In the past few weeks, bulldozers and other specialised machines have been ploughing a massive herringbone trench system to drain up to 3km of the Balamhlanga wetland in the Makhathini Flats near Jozini. The project has angered conservationists and wetland experts, who want to know why the provincial conservation agency is helping to destroy a natural wetland.
There are no indications Ezemvelo, its contractor or consulting engineer obtained the necessary authorisation to drain a specially protected natural habitat. Ezemvelo and the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs have yet to respond to queries from The Mercury, but it is understood they have sought to justify the drainage on the basis that the wetland is overrun by a “weed invasion”. However, wetland experts have confirmed the Typha latifolia bulrushes at Balamhlanga are not alien, but indigenous to South Africa. Piet-Louis Grundling, who chairs the SA Wetland Society, said many wetland areas were being drained or degraded, mainly for agricultural use, such as sugar cane or timber plantations. Grundling said although indigenous bulrushes had the potential to become invasive in certain conditions, “they seem to be using excessive force when several better options are available.” He said the bulrushes could have been sprayed with herbicide or cut with sickles, creating jobs for the unemployed.
With the government spending R100 million a year to restore degraded wetlands, Grundling questioned how a quarter of this amount could be used to drain a single wetland in the province, ostensibly to create grazing for cattle. The wetland is also in the Maputaland centre of plant endemism, containing some flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. Another ecologist, who did not want to be named because of a close association with Ezemvelo, noted the wetland was on the periphery of the government-funded Mjindi irrigation scheme, which meant it was more likely the wetland was being cleared to grow sugar cane or other irrigation crops. The drainage project is thought to be funded by the Agriculture Department, but put out to tender by Ezemvelo.
Last week, The Mercury sent questions to the provincial Agriculture Department, Department of Water Affairs, Ezemvelo, Jamela Consulting Engineers and Leomat Construction, to clarify who authorised the project in terms of the National Water Act and the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act. No responses have been received so far. However, shortly after queries were submitted to Richards Bay construction and earthmoving company Leomat, The Mercury received a call from an agriculture official in Phongola. The official could not confirm whether there had been an environmental impact assessment or approval from the Department of Water Affairs. “I’m not sure it’s their job to question whether the project is environmentally-friendly. But there is nothing to hide here.
The contract was awarded in November 2013 and is due for completion in February 2015. “This pan is about 250ha with an abundance of water discharged into the wetland from the Mamfene irrigation scheme. One of the concerns of the community was that the artificial abundance of water was raising the malaria risk.” Grundling, however, suggested that the contractors and consulting engineers could be held liable if the project was not properly authorised. “How much profit do they make out of a project like this? One presumes they are members of professional societies and should know the law.
Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:25 pm
This thing reeks!
Tender awarded...ostensibly for cattle grazing...probably sugarcane farming...
Thu Jul 31, 2014 7:42 pm
Tourism Update: Ezemvelo CEO could face 10 years in prisonToday's News
31 Thu, Jul 2014
Ezemvelo CEO, Bandile Mkhize, could face 10 years imprisonment as well as a fine of up to R10m if he is found guilty of violating environment legislation by aiding the draining and destruction of the Balamhlanga Wetlands near Jozini in KwaZulu Natal.
During the past few weeks, bulldozers have ploughed a massive herringbone trench system to drain the wetlands. Ezemvelo recently appointed construction workers and engineers by order of the Department of Agriculture to drain the wetlands, and bulldoze the area to eradicate the so-called indigenous reeds in a R25-million project.
Piet-Louis Grundling, Chairman of the SA Wetland Society and the International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG), says the reason the excavation is taking place is still unclear. “Who knows what the reasons are. Ignorance? Greed? The official documentation is very vague. Reasons now being given range from wetland rehab to draining for cattle grazing. The work done thus far looks to me like draining for sugar cane cultivation.”
With regard to Ezemvelo’s alleged involvement in the destruction of the wetlands, Grundling says it’s simply criminal. “Can we trust them to look after other biodiversity treasures, such as our rhino? The IMCG is really disappointed that a near pristine wetland of significance is being destroyed with government funds. Especially at a time when government programmes such as Working for Wetlands are doing their utmost to protect and rehabilitate degraded wetlands.”
Albi Modise, spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Affairs, told Tourism Upate that the Department was currently investigating the exact extent of the damage that had been caused to the wetland as well as what had led to the current situation. He added that investigations were still under way and that no one had been found guilty as yet.
Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group.
phpBB Mobile / SEO by Artodia.