Environmental justice groups and coastal communities are celebrating an unexpected victory. Civil society groups have been alleging that the EIA processes were flawed, and yesterday, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) made public its decision to refuse all three environmental authorisations applications (EA) for the gas-to-power projects proposed for the ports of Richards Bay, Ngqura and Saldanha Bay.
The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “We are incredibly happy about this decision, which supports our views that the concerns of local affected communities should be properly taken into account and their issues properly studied. And we hope that the DFFE will, going forward, always make the effort to continue to check that all the relevant information is presented in EIAs – especially for those projects that will have a high impact – and hold consultants accountable for anything less.”
Just this week, civil society organisations sent a letter reiterating the call to Parliament for urgent investigation and public hearings around the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP), and specifically the choice to award preferred bidder status to Karpowership.
Neville van Rooy, the Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator says, “We do not believe that Karpowerships were right for South Africa’s energy mix. These floating kettles would certainly have had a huge impact on the lives of the many small-scale fishing communities along the coast who depend on the oceans for their very existence. This process appeared flawed from the start, since many of these communities were neither recognised nor considered. This is a good day for our democracy.”
Natalie-Jane van Wyk of Coastal Links, Saldanha Bay Community echoed McDaid’s sentiments. She says, “We are all just so thankful to the Green Connection for their amazing efforts and the work they put in to help us as small-scale fishers in Saldanha to turn this fight into a victory. Our fishers can continue to work in our zone and continue to provide for our families, which is actually the biggest victory.”
Mr Christy Links, a fisher in Saldanha Bay also welcomed the announcement and called on the government to listen to the concerns of the community. “I would like to thank our community and all who supported us. This decision proves that unity was our strength in this fight, and I implore the government to acknowledge and value community input regarding future projects of this nature.”
The Eastern Cape Environmental Network’s (ECEN) Owen Ndidi says that as they have also been advocating for transparency and a fair public participation process, the government’s decision is welcome.
“We will however continue to watch the energy space as things unfolds in the future, because there are still a number of issues that remain unclear, one of them being the call from civil society for parliamentary hearings around the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP), and specifically the choice to award preferred bidder status to Karpowership”.
Solene Smith, Chairperson of the Fishers of Langebaan was particularly moved by the decision.
“I am truly overjoyed by the outcome. This victory is concrete evidence that united we are strong. By joining forces with environmental organisations and other coastal communities affected by these proposals, and by making our struggles public – through our protest actions and talking to the media,” says Smith.
She adds, “I think back to our demonstrations on World Ocean Day recently, how the young and old in the community joined hands to bring awareness to importance of conserving our Langebaan Lagoon and the ocean. This is about securing the environment for future generations. Our voices will continue to be heard more and more from this day forward, because we are the custodians of our environment. We were born here. We live here, and we have our customary right to fish in these waters. And it’s not just the issue of Karpowerships that we will fight against, any issue that threatens our environment and our oceans will be handled in the same manner with community unity and passion.”