Saldanha Bay community concerned over proposed project
Cape Town - Concerns are being expressed by a sustainability organisation about the lack of public participation from the Saldanha Bay community when it comes to approving projects.
The non-profit organisation known as Green Connection made its submission into the Draft Scoping Report for the Assegai (Pty) Ltd Proposed Gas-to-Power Project in Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape last week.
The intended purpose of developing a gas-to-power facility for the generation of 150MW of electricity would serve as the required fuel that would be transported via a pipeline from the Port of Saldanha.
It would also be vaporised on site to produce vapour for the fuelling of gas turbines.
The site lies inside the Besaansklip Industrial Area in Saldanha.
The organisation raised questions about the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) of the project still going through even when there is a little or no meaningful engagement with the communities who will be most affected by the projects.
The Green Connection’s community outreach lead, Neville van Rooy, said: “During my engagement with the local community in Saldanha, we discovered that many were not even informed of the public participation processes regarding the project.”
He said the communities are struggling with poverty and unemployment and, as a result, are not necessarily tech-savvy, nor do they readily have access to digital communication.
“If the consulting firm mainly relied on online means to notify them of meetings, entire communities would have been excluded.
“Not only does the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) require the equitable and meaningful participation of all interested and affected parties, it emphasises the requirement to include vulnerable and disadvantaged persons.
“Since the Constitution says that their voices must be heard, by law, environmental authorisation should not be granted if Nema principles were not adhered to,” he said.
Saldanha Coastal link small-scale fisher Carmelita Mostert said: “I am extremely concerned to hear about this new proposed gas power project planned for Saldanha. What will happen to us? Our fishing resources are already disappearing. Fishers in Saldanha strongly oppose this project and do not agree. We want a platform to state our case. Our ability to fish is our livelihood.”
A small-scale fisher in Langebaan, Harold Beeselaar, said: “Since public participation is a crucial part of a functioning democracy, the way in which our government deals with many EIAs and its process around the country makes us very concerned for our country going forward.”