Investigations of wetland destruction completed

Thu Oct 22, 2015 6:58 pm

http://zululandobserver.co.za/87591/investigations-of-wetland-destruction-completed/

The report, which could lead to criminal charges against Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) officials, is now in the hands of the Director of State Prosecutors.
A CRIMINAL investigation by the Green Scorpions into the destruction of the Balamhlanga wetland in the Makhathini Flats, has been completed.

The report, which could lead to criminal charges against Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) officials, is now in the hands of the Director of State Prosecutors.

The investigations could lead to EKZNW and/or officials being named and prosecuted for their part in the canals being made in the vlei under the guise of weed eradication.

The project, believed to have cost millions, was halted by the Green Scorpions of the Department of Environment Affairs in June last year.

At present, no one is saying anything about who is implicated and the details of the investigations will only be available after the State Prosecutor has studied the report.

The questions being asked include why the draconian measure of draining 25ha of important wetland was considered under the guise of alien plant removal and whether an EIA was conducted prior to digging the first canal.

The Balamhlanga wetland

The wetland is substantial and 3km long with indigenous vegetation, predominantly typha (Bulrushes).

There is an argument that it is an artificial wetland, but this is incorrect as the wetland can clearly be seen on satellite imagery.

Apparently EKW projects are used by the Department of Agriculture as they have a quicker procurement process and somehow managed to secure the required R25-million needed for the project under the guise to ‘rehabilitate’ the wetland.

The real concern is that as the provincial conservation agency, EKZNW is involved in destroying biodiversity when it is mandated to conserve and protect it.

It appears that the rehabilitation is outside the rule of law in that this activity falls outside of the provisions of the KZN Nature Conservation Act.

The other concern is the use of State funds for this rehabilitation.

It is believed that R25-million of EKZNW money is being spent on the project.

Legal requirements

This sort of activity also requires a water use licence and an authorisation following a successful consideration of an impact assessment in terms of he National Environmental Management Act.

A directive under Conservation Agricultural Resources Act (CARA) is also required.

When questions were being asked around the legal issues, the Department of Agriculture and EKZNW were unable to produce proof of authorisation and it was then assumed that they did not exist and the Green Scorpions were called in.

It is not clear who would benefit from the ‘rehabilitation’.