Ezemvelo still in trouble for wetland damage
January 27 2015 at 11:18am
By Tony Carnie
Durban - Conservation agency Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is still under criminal investigation for helping to bulldoze and drain a wetland near Jozini last year, allegedly without environmental authorisation.
The national Department of Environmental Affairs has given no indication of when the criminal probe into the environmental damage at the Balamhlanga wetland in the Makhathini Flats, which came to light more than six months ago, will be finalised.
However, once the investigation is finished, national Environment Minister Edna Molewa will engage with her provincial counterpart, Mike Mabuyakhulu, the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental -Affairs.
Department spokesman Albi Modise said a final compliance notice had been served on Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in October, requiring the conservation agency to rehabilitate the wetland.
Modise said the rehabilitation work was being monitored by the Green Scorpions, a specialist group of inspectors who investigate crimes and transgressions involving environmental laws. A specialist report on the damage to the wetland confirmed the department’s view that Balamhlanga was an important wetland in terms of water quality and regulating stream flows at a regional scale.
The report indicated that nearly 50ha of the 400ha wetland was now lost.
In response to queries on whether the department had found a link between the wetland drainage and plans to build a new bioethanol refinery close by, the department said the provincial Agriculture Department had approached the national Environment Department to discuss “future agricultural development of the -entire Makhathini Flats (excluding Balamhlanga)”.
“There may be links to other projects in the area, but the status of the bioethanol plant referred to is unknown to the Department of Environmental Affairs.”