Wetland troubles continue

Taken from iol.co.za/JOHN YELD Environment & Science Write:

THE NATIONAL Water Affairs Department says it is determined to protect water sources, especially wetlands, and has requested the developer of the Beach Club at Hout Bay to produce a wetland specialist’s report within 14 days, among other documents.

This follows its action last week when it gave the developer 48 hours to explain why it should not issue a directive to stop all further infilling of a disputed wetland area, remove all the fill already dumped and levelled, and rehabilitate the site to its natural state.

The developer of this controversial housing estate in the coastal dunes on the western bank of the Disa River, Really Useful Investments (Pty) Ltd, continues to insist that all the infilling work is being done legally in terms of an environmental plan approved by the provincial government.

This was confirmed to the Cape Argus again on Friday by its attorney, Johan du Plessis, who said: “My client is implementing an approved development plan authorising development on its property above the 50-year flood level, but is doing so under the supervision of an independent environmental control officer and in accordance with a construction phase environmental management plan approved by the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.”

However, the 50-year flood level is now strongly disputed by the Hout Bay & Llandudno Environment Conservation Group, which had earlier made an unsuccessful bid in the Western Cape High Court to stop the developer’s earthmoving operation which it said included infilling of part of the wetlands linked to the estuary.

“Blue Scorpion” Thando Stimela, a compliance, monitoring and enforcement official at Water Affairs’ regional head office in Bellville, confirmed yesterday that the developer had responded to the department’s 48-hour demand, and had asked it not to issue a directive. However, the department had not been satisfied with the response, partly because some documentation was lacking.

After a discussion with the developer’s legal team, the developer had been given 14 days to supply the construction phase environmental management plan, as well as a wetland specialist’s report which included a delineation of the wetland. Also, the department had requested a diagram to be drawn up by a professional engineer, showing the 1:50-year flood line in the area.

“The reason we want this is because we want to satisfy ourselves about their EMP (environmental management plan),” Stimela said.

The City of Cape Town is working with the department to investigate an alleged failure by the Beach Club developer to comply with its order, issued last month in terms of the stormwater management by-law. This was to stop all further infilling in the disputed wetland area in the Disa River estuary, and to remove all fill already placed within the 1:100-year flood line.

City media manager Kylie Hatton confirmed “non-compliance with the stormwater notice”, and said its further efforts in this regard were being co-ordinated with the national Water Affairs Department.

“In the event that (the developer’s) representations are unsatisfactory, the city and the department will prepare a final notice and will make a decision as to whether to apply to the high court for an urgent interdict should this not be complied with. A remediation order may be part of what the city could apply for.”

Stimela also said Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa was “very concerned” about wetlands, and that the department was acting against alleged contraventions of the act in various places in the Western Cape, including at Mfuleni adjoining the Kuils River

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