In November last year, the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture Land Administration (MDALA) issued an instruction to stop all construction on an extension to Ngwenya Lodge on the banks of the Crocodile River on the southern borders of the Kruger National Park (KNP), pending the finalisation of an environmental management plan (EMP), but the developer continued with construction illegally. This was after the developer had initially commenced with construction on the project without obtaining authorisation from the department initially.
The required EMP is for 16 units that have already been built. Once the MDALA was sure that the development was illegal, in that the construction of 16 of the proposed 156 units had commenced prior to authorisation, it issued instructions for an EMP and gave the developer a R15 500 administration fine.
The department of environmental affairs and tourism developed a fine calculator to determine an administration fine that a developer is required to pay before the relevant provincial authority (in this case MDALA) can process and review the EMP.
Once the reports have been finalised and reviewed the department will decide on the application. If the applicant fails to comply with the decision of the department, it would constitute an offence and he could be subject to a fine of R5 million or 10-year imprisonment or both.
As far as can be ascertained, there were no permits issued by the department of water affairs and forestry (Dwaf) for the Lilliput sewerage treatment package plant, which is situated in a drainage line or for the proposed units that had been built over-looking the river. Dwaf has recommended that the package plant be relocated.
The KNP has referred the matter to the MEC, D Pule, by lodging an objection on July 20, 2007, against the Ngwenya shareblock development. Kruger maintains, that as a government entity, it was never consulted in the spirit of cooperative governance prior to the objection to ensure its concerns were addressed and that the development “may have significant impacts in terms of the National Environment Management Act (Nema) and the National Environmental Protected Areas Act (NEPAA) on the park, other than visual impacts.”
The park said it became aware of an illegal development in terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations on the farm Tenbosch in about November last year and notified the EIA division of the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture Land Administration.
The Park maintains that, prior to the letter instructing the developer to contact Kruger (which was after the units had been built), it did not have the opportunity to register as an interested and affected party to submit any comments on the development and all the potential impacts of the proposed development have not been identified and assessed.
The developer, CP Hume, declined to comment and referred all queries to the consultant. Mette Rossaak, of Emross Consulting, says a scoping report was conducted, even though it was completed after the construction of the 16 units had begun.
She adds that the environmental aspects of the remainder of the proposed expansion are covered by the scoping document as prescribed by the Environmental Conservation Act. She says the scoping report was conducted in terms of the Environmental Conservation Act (ECA) because the application process had already started in 2005.
According to a spokesperson, of MDALA, an application for environmental authorisation in terms of the ECA, as well as a plan of study for scoping, for the development of a public resort (Ngwenya), was submitted to the department on January 27, 2006. “By the time the department issued a directive to the applicant on November 11, 2006 for commencing with construction illegally, the department had not received a scoping report to review.
On February 13, 2007 the department issued a second directive to the applicant in order to clarify that an EMP was required for those units that were already constructed, and that the remainder of the proposed development would still require environmental authorisation.” MDALA therefore still required a full scoping report for the entire application submitted in January 2006.
According to the spokesperson, a scoping report for the remainder of the development was submitted to the department on March 19, 2007, as well as the draft EMP for the illegal construction. The department reviewed the EMP and requested further information on March 29, 2007. The final EMP, which included comment from Sanparks regarding the mitigation of visual impacts, was submitted to the department on July 26, 2007.
“The department commented on the final EMP on August 6, 2007, and is awaiting a response from the consultant / applicant. The scoping report for the remainder of the development can only be considered once the department has decided the EMP.” According to Mette, Kruger did have the opportunity to comment on the development and Kruger staff have submitted their comments for the scoping report, following a site visit at the development.