Supporting article C: Could environmental destruction by developers ever be stopped?
Seven illegal resorts bust
22 September 2009, 14:19
By Arthi Sanpath
Conservation authorities have exposed at least six more illegal tourist resorts being built in the heart of the country’s first World Heritage Site – the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal.
All are in ecologically sensitive forest areas adjacent to turtle nesting beaches – the last significant breeding ground for giant leatherback and loggerhead turtles.
Noted for its exceptional biodiversity, the park is made up of 13 adjoining protected areas with a total size of 234 566 hectares. It includes three major lake systems, 220km of coastline and 190km of marine reserve.
The parks authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife fear that the illegal developments could endanger the park’s status as a World Heritage Site.
They are intent on launching further court applications to stop the unique park from being destroyed.
The two bodies were granted an interdict last week against the first illegal developer, Inkwazi Resort, Mjozi Ngubane and Cecil Henry Berkhout, to stop threats of violence and prevent any construction work or damage to vegetation.
They have until October 9 to respond.
The application is for them to remove the development, rehabilitate the site and cease all commercial activities in the park.
It has come to light that at least six other illegal developments, according to authorities, are under construction.
Roland Vorwerk, spokesman for the park, said the six other developments were similar to the Inkwazi Resort.
That resort had a website advertising accommodation had built cottages, facilities and cleared forest areas for a road to the coast.
Developers at the sites are all believed to be different South African companies.
The section of the park affected by the six developments makes up 18 percent of the park and stretches from Sodwana Bay to Kosi Bay, and is a wetland site of international importance.
The Inkwazi Resort development was first spotted by conservation authorities during a routine surveillance flight over Bhanga Nek, according to court papers.
In the papers, the park authority stated: “Because of its obvious urgency, this application is concerned only with one development. Separate applications in respect of the others are about to be launched.”
The world-renowned park has the largest estuary system in Africa and the southernmost coral reefs.
Park CEO Andrew Zaloumis explained that the clearing of pristine coastal forest could lead to irreparable damage.
“For example uncontrolled development in the wrong places could disrupt the turtle breeding patterns on the coast. It becomes a domino effect, one unauthorised development left unchecked will lead to more unregulated and unplanned development and could cause the whole park to lose its world heritage status,” he said.
While the parks authority was careful not to be drawn on conflict between the indunas and the parks authority, it said if there were tensions between a local induna and the park, it would work with the relevant traditional council and government department to resolve it.
It maintained the wetland park authority was the only authority permitted to allocate commercial rights in the park.
Duncan Hay, of UKZN’s Centre for Agriculture, Environment and Development said the conflict between who has authority in the park has always been prevalent.
He has been doing research work at the park for many years.
“The history of the conflict between the old Natal Parks Board and local residents is not new,” he said.
Hay said the developments were an illustration of the types of conflict that existed between development and conservation needs, and there needed to be reconciliation.
“I just watch it getting worse,” he said.
Hay said development could contribute negatively and positively and it would be difficult to say all development in the park was negative and should be stopped.
“Local people must have some kind of access to the natural resources, but due processes of developments to be established must be followed,” Hay said.
* This article was originally published on page 1 of The Daily News on September 22, 2009