DEALING WITH MAJOR DEVELOPMENTAL THREATS TO IBAPosted on the 16th September 2010
DEALING WITH MAJOR DEVELOPMENTAL THREATS TO IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS (IBAs)
Habitat loss remains one of the biggest threats to birds and the environment in South Africa and the rest of the world. The development agenda remains a strong opponent to the environmental agenda and although government has finally started turning its attention towards promoting sustainable development, industry sees this as a last opportunity to acquire land, damage the environment and jeoperdise water and food security. This contrasts with the South African government’s international commitments to reduce carbon emissions,reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, and alleviate poverty. The campaigns listed below highlight BirdLife South Africa’s (BLSA) endeavors to conserve and protect the habitats important for birds, people and the greater environment.
*Mapungubwe mining threat (Limpopo) Limpopo Coal (a subsidiary of CoAL of Africa) obtained a 25 year mining right for coking coal in the Mapungubwe area in February 2010. Even though the area demarcated for the mining falls outside Vhembe Nature Reserve (IBA SA001) and the Mapungubwe National Park in the Limpopo Province, the impact of mining there will have a detrimental effect on the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Region. This Region is the only area outside the greater Kruger National Park that supports viable breeding populations of Kori Bustard, Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Saddle-billed Stork, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Southern Ground Hornbill.
The mining activities will undoubtedly bring with it severe environmental impacts which cannot be mitigated, e.g. massive human influx, habitat destruction, air-, water-, noise and light pollution. These impacts would most certainly compromise not only the avifauna, but also the entire biodiversity and growing eco-tourism industry in the area. BLSA has formed a coalition with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), the Wilderness Foundation South Africa (WFSA), the World Wild Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA), the Mapungubwe Action Group (MAG) and the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA), to challenge the validity of the New Order Mining Right and Environmental Plan.
The process followed thus far has included the following: two internal appeals were lodged in March 2010, and our legal team has served an interdict on Limpopo Coal with a view to halting their activities pending the outcome of the appeals and review applications. We are hoping that the interdict application will be set down for hearing in December 2010. In the meantime, some of Limpopo Coal’s activities have been suspended due to non-compliance with the Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) pre-compliance and compliance orders for some of their activities. Limpopo Coal has appealed the suspension and is hoping to resume some of its activities shortly.
*Wakkerstroom/Luneburg prospecting threat (Mpumalanga) In 2007 Delta Mining obtained coal and torbanite prospecting rights over more than 20 000 hectares of pristine grassland in the Luneburg area, which falls within the Wakkerstroom Municipal region in Mpumalanga. The area targeted for the prospecting also forms part of the Grassland Biosphere Reserve (IBA SA 020) and prospecting and mining activities would have a detrimental effect on the threatened and endemic grassland bird species that have their core populations centered on the proposed Biosphere area. In March 2008 BLSA formed a coalition with the Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc-SA), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) and the local landowners of the Luneburg/Wakkerstroom Environmental Protection Association (LWEPA).
These prospecting rights were obtained without the necessary consultation with any of the landowners or environmental NGOs operating in the area and with disregard for the applicable South African environmental and other legislation. The coalition challenged the prospecting rights via a judicial review process and has managed to settle part of the case via out-of-court discussions with Delta Mining. This has resulted in Delta Mining relinquishing their prospecting rights over the area and settling part of the legal costs incurred by the coalition. This was a major success for the environment but the matter will only be finalized once the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has withdrawn its notice of opposition and agreed to settle part of the legal costs incurred. If feedback is not received from the office of the State Attorney by mid-September 2010, the matter will set down for hearing in High Court.
*Nylsvley prospecting threat (Limpopo) The Nyl River Floodplain (IBA SA008) is under major threat through a coal prospecting application by African Exploration & Mining Finance Corporation (AEMFC). This is the largest wetland of its kind in South Africa and contains the Nyslvley Ramsar site and Nylsvley Nature Reserve. The area supports at least 426 bird species and the floodplain can hold up to 80 000 birds during high rainfall years. BLSA registered as an Interested & Affected Party (IAP) in March 2010 and submitted a letter of objection to the Regional Manager of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in Limpopo. The original application in the Background Information Document (BID) included part of the Nylsvley Nature Reserve Ramsar site and they have amended their application to exclude the Reserve. The rest of the application still includes parts of the Nylsvley Floodplain and the IBA. Our consultants have submitted the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to the DMR and are currently awaiting feedback.
*Chrissie Pans prospecting and mining threat (Mpumalanga) The Chrissie Pans area is an IBA (IBA SA019) and consists of more than 320 pans, mainly on private land, which supports large numbers of waterbirds, including Lesser and Greater Flamingos, and it is an important refuge for the last small floating population of Wattled Crane remaining in Mpumalanga. The latest prospecting application by AEMFC for part of the Chrissiesmeer area includes a section of the proposed Ramsar area and the Chrissie Pans IBA. Mining and prospecting activities will destroy the habitat of the birds, jeopardise the food producing capacity of the area and negatively impact the water quality of these pans. BLSA registered as an IAP in May 2010 and lodged a letter of objection with the Regional Manager of the DMR office in Mpumalanga. Our consultants are currently waiting for feedback from the Department of Mineral Resources in Mpumalanga.
*Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve prospecting threat (Heidelberg-Gauteng) The Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is one of only two IBAs in the Gauteng Province and, because of the diversity of habitats, the reserve holds approximately 273 bird species. These include two threatened species - White-bellied Korhaan and African Grass-Owl - that have already lost a great deal of habitat to industrialization and afforestation within the Grassland Biome. BLSA has received a few details of a prospecting application by White Water West Rand Exploration (Pty) Ltd for properties lying adjacent to the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, but has in the interim registered as an IAP and will submit a letter of objection to the Gauteng Regional office of the DMR. Affected landowners have approached BLSA for support and guidance. Our main concern is for the negative impact that prospecting and mining activities will have on the quality and quantity of ground water and the ultimate impact on Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. BLSA has notified officials from Gauteng Department of Agriculture & Rural Development of this application and they will submit comments from their side.
Other possible threats:
Proteadal: Business/residential development bordering the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, Gauteng.
Verlorenvlei: Prospecting and mining threat, Western Cape.
Baja Sardinia/Shark Bay development: Resort development threat, Langebaan, Western Cape.
Glencalder: Prospecting threat, KZN.
Groenvlei: Prospecting and mining threat near Dullstroom, Mpumalanga.
Boikarabelo Mining: Mining threat Waterberg, Limpopo.
Kgomo-kgomo: Prospecting and mining threat, Brits, North West Province.
We depend on our members and the general public to keep us informed of new developments that threaten our country’s IBAs or new information relating to existing threats. In this way we are able to channel our resources effectively and to respond to these threats at the earliest stage possible.
Information can be relayed to the following e-mail addresses:
email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org