By Melissa Wray In Limpopo/Mpumalanga
A sixth objection lodged last year against the proposed Olifants River Water Resources Development Project (ORWRDP) has come to light. The National Parks Support Group Trust has also opposed the construction of the De Hoop dam on the last major undammed tributary of the Olifants River, calling the project "irresponsible and extremely damaging to the environment and biodiversity."
The Kruger Park Times was informed by the ministry of environmental affairs and tourism that they had received five appeals against the record of decision on the ORWRDP, but that the ministry was unable to give out further details. At that time, the newspaper was in possession of copies of the appeals from Sanparks itself, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the South African Water Caucus, the Mozambican branch of Geasphere, and a private individual.
As this adds up to five appeals, the Kruger Park Times was surprised when it was approached by the chairman of the National Parks Support Group Trust (NPSGT), Rupert Lorimer, with information regarding their own appeal.
The basis of the National Parks Support Group Trust's appeal is much the same as that of Sanparks, in that both believe that another dam in the Olifants River system will decrease the amount of water flowing in the river and hence into Kruger, with its attendant negative impacts on the river's biodiversity.
The NPSGT states that "unless there are major reductions in other take-offs from the river before the dam is built, the dam should not be built at all." In terms of the new national water act, the department of water affairs and forestry is responsible for ensuring that enough water flows through the country's rivers to sustain the ecological needs of the river.
Although the water act was passed in 1998, the department has not yet managed to maintain the flows in the Olifants River, with the result that the Olifants River dried up totally in Kruger for 78 days last year. This meant that South Africa's legal obligation to deliver water to Mozambique through the Olifants River was also not being met.
The NPSGT states that a strategy must be developed to deal with the water flows in the middle Olifants catchment, and "that this must be put into effect as an absolute priority and necessary reforms in water allocations must be instituted and enforced (if necessary by legislation or regulation) before the commencement of any building operations."
The De Hoop dam is intended to supply water primarily to help mining companies utilise the platinum reserves in the area, with a lesser percentage of the stored water being earmarked for agriculture and primary human usage.
With the appeals made against the dam, it is now up to the minister of environmental affairs and tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, to decide how to proceed with the De Hoop dam and its associated 300km of bulk water distribution pipelines.