The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process for a development planned on Kruger National Park's border is entering its final stages. The Lion's Walk / Rietvley development initially stated that 70 lodges were planned for the 2,531ha farm on the park's border, south east of Phalaborwa gate within the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR).
This figure has been adjusted downwards, but according to Errol Pietersen, warden of the Umbabat Private Nature Reserve and APNR representative in this matter, it is still higher than the APNR would like. A draft scoping report on the project was issued in February, and interested and affected parties were given time to comment.
According to Ralf Kalwa from Rhengu Environmental Services, performing the EIA, he is "fairly comfortable" that the majority of the 120 pages of comments received have been addressed in the final Environmental Impact Report issued on September 9.
Public meetings discussing the EIR were held, and the report was submitted to environmental affairs at their request. Public comments on the final EIR will be compiled by Kalwa and submitted to environmental affairs. The department will then decide how the development will proceed. Kalwa expects this to take about three months.
Pietersen says that he feels that there is still insufficient evidence to show that there is enough water to sustain the development. He says that access to the development from the provincial roads has also not been resolved. The proposed development, now intended to have less than 50 lodges, is similar in scope to existing shareblock developments in the APNR.
These shareblocks were developed prior to today's environmental legislation. The APNR reserves now have a constitution that limits commercial development, with development on Rietvley's scale being ruled out.
Kalwa says that the Rietvley EIA incorporates many things not considered in previous developments, such as a buffer zone around the lodges, air traffic procedures, and proposed professional guides for game drives.
The farm Rietvley is unfenced and is part of the open Greater Kruger system, but is not a member of any of the APNR reserves and the landowners not bound by the APNR constitution.