Picture: Dumisani Sibeko
Durban - The Summerveld community, 40km east of Durban, who have objected to Eskom’s proposal to build two sub-stations and erect power lines in the area, are urging the power utility to find “better and eco-friendly” methods to source energy.

The Mercury reported on Monday that Eskom is proposing that two new sub-stations be built in Shongweni to reduce power outages and ensure eThekwini residents’ electricity demands are met for the next 20 years.

The community believe there are already too many power lines and are fearful of the implications further development may bring.

“We don’t want to be known as Pylonville,” said chairperson of the Summerveld Farm Watch committee Rory Callaghan.

Callaghan, an oncologist, said the environmental impact report by an Eskom-contracted company was “fatally flawed”.

He said the maps used in the report were outdated and did not account for the new development in the area.

“The two preferred corridors that are indicated as the area where the new sub-stations and power lines will go right through the heart of Summerveld. Summerveld has a tranquil, picturesque country atmosphere and we are already under threat by the air pollution,” he said.

Speaking to The Mercury at the Summerveld Equine Hospital, Callaghan said they were already in an ongoing war with EnviroServ over air pollution from the landfill site and were very concerned over Eskom’s plans.

Callaghan was joined by equine vet Ralph Katzwinkel and community member Alex Dube.

The Shongweni project will consist of the development of two new 500 mega volt-amp sub-stations and two 400 kilovolt power lines that will run for about 15km in ward 4 of the eThekwini Municipality.

Dube argued that there were two existing corridors unused by Eskom, adding that he could not understand the reason to add more corridors for pylons.

Callaghan said Eskom held a community meeting recently where they aired their opposing views on the matter, but the meeting was not well advertised by Eskom, resulting in few people attending.

Health implications

In the meantime, the subcommittee held its own meetings to alert the community to the developments.

Callaghan said the area was home to mountain bikers, trail runners, bird watchers and horse breeders and the consultative meeting should have gone beyond those who owned properties in the area.

He said there was no mention of health implications in the report.

“In fact, when I purchased my property five years ago, I specifically checked where the power lines were. I am an oncologist and I can put my good name on the line to categorically state that living within 600m of power lines causes an increased risk of numerous tumour types, childhood leukaemia, breast cancer, brain tumours, foetal abnormalities and miscarriages.

“This is also a horse-breeding area, so imagine the impact,” Callaghan said, adding that should Eskom go ahead with its plans, his property would be within 100m of the pylons.

Katzwinkel said the area proposed by Eskom was also marked as D’MOSS (Durban Metropolitan Open Space System) areas, which meant no development could take place there as it was a sensitive ecosphere. “The report doesn’t pick up on the D’MOSS area. The report also has a map of another area attached to it which is incorrect.

“There are many flaws in the report that have not yet been addressed,” he said.

There has been no indication from Eskom when construction of the substations would start.

Eskom has yet to respond to questions sent last week.

The Mercury