The Western leopard toad is endemic to the coastal lowlands of the south-western Cape, with a distribution range that extends from the Cape Peninsula and Cape Flats to the Agulhas Plain. File picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
The Western leopard toad is endemic to the coastal lowlands of the south-western Cape, with a distribution range that extends from the Cape Peninsula and Cape Flats to the Agulhas Plain. File picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Noordhoek development threatens Western leopard toad

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Apr 22, 2021

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The fight continues over the City’s plan for a new road link along the Noordhoek wetlands, despite environmentalists believing it will cause the extinction of the already protected Western leopard toad.

Cape Town – The fight continues over the City’s plan, in the pipeline for nearly two decades, for a new road link along the Noordhoek wetlands, despite environmentalists believing it will cause the extinction of the already protected Western leopard toad.

The City wants to construct the proposed Houmoed Avenue Phase 1 Extension, to link Noordhoek Main road with Kommetjie road, that will run along Noordhoek Wetlands, and is opposing a legal application to halt the development.

The Noordhoek Environmental Action Group (NEAG), backed by the Noordhoek Ratepayers Association (NRPA), launched an application at the Western Cape High Court, for the approval of the road by environment MEC Anton Bredell to be reversed.

The project was first approved after an application process in 2002, but the decision was overturned in 2004.

In 2016, the City revived its plan for the extension and, in 2019, the province issued an Environmental Authorisation.

The road will assist with traffic congestion and benefit Noordhoek valley, which includes the communities of Sunnydale and Masiphumelele, said the City.

However, NEAG’s Andrea Marais said the development would have far-reaching consequences.

“The three permanent bodies in the wetland will certainly be catastrophically impacted by the proposed road and traffic, as well as noise and light pollution, that comes with a road. Wetlands provide important ecological services for the city, keeping water clean, replenishing aquifers and preventing flooding.”

Marais said in other parts of the city where water bodies have been destroyed by development, like the Milnerton lagoon, it has cost the city a fortune to clean up.

“Without the wetland there, is a very real risk of drought damage, nutrient run-off, water pollution, shoreline erosion, and an increase in airborne diseases, that will have an enormously negative effect on the residents of Masiphumelele and Noordhoek,” she said.

Initially, this was meant as a temporary road and no alternative roads were explored, Marais said.

“We are flabbergasted as to the schizophrenic nature of the City, who claim concern for endangered species and wetlands, but at the same time set out to destroy them.

’’Applications like this one makes it look like the City does not value biodiversity and, therefore, they do not value the quality of life of Cape Town’s residents,” she said.

Alison Faraday of the ToadNUTs, an organisation that has been collecting data and saving Western Leopard Toads since 2007, said the toads were a “canary in the coalmine” species for biodiversity.

“We are already seeing a decline in toad populations. The Western Leopard Toad Conservation Committee agrees that this road may well eliminate the local population of the species. Specialists have advised us that this road will cause the wetlands to collapse.”

ToadNUTs has been supported by the Endangered Wildlife Trust and other eminent amphibian specialists in their assertion.

The NRPA said they have been in regular communication with Noordhoek residents on the issue, and the majority were against the current proposed road extension.

Transport mayco member Felicity Purchase said they filed their notice of intention to oppose the application on April 12.

“During the Environmental Impact Assessment process, there was an extensive public participation exercise and anyone had the opportunity to submit comments on the proposal.

“There are a number of ratepayer associations included in the list of registered interested and affected parties, who were aware of, and kept informed during this public participation process.

’’In fact, the City has opted for a more comprehensive public participation strategy, to allow maximum opportunities for interested and affected parties to comment,” said Purchase.

Bredell’s spokesperson, James-Brent Styan, said legal advice on the matter was still being considered.

Cape Times

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