More time for Berg cable car

2014-01-31 00:00

THE public participation process around plans or a cable car up a Drakensberg mountain has been extended to February 14, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu said yesterday.

The department had intended to end the public participation process in December last year, but the plans were changed after former president Nelson Mandela died, Mabuyakhulu said at a briefing yesterday.

The cable car project is one of seven projects that the department hopes will drive massive growth in the tourism industry by 2020.

The other projects are a proposed Breakwater statue, Bluff Bridge, a big statue of King Shaka, a new International Convention Centre, a beach resort and the so-called “Isandlwana Development Precinct”.

The cable car has been panned by environmental organisations who fear it will not attract as many tourists as hoped, destroy existing community projects that already generate income in the area, cost much more than planned and that not enough consideration had been given to factors such as strong winds.

The province’s feasibility study, made public in July last year, found that it was feasible to build the cable car in the Busingatha site at Mount Amery, Drakensberg.

Mabuyakhulu said a business plan for the project had been commissioned, and the department was also commissioning an environmental impact assessment (EIA) at the site.

“The proximity of the site to the World Heritage Site and the sensitivity of the Drakensberg landscape call for the development of the EIA,” said Mabuyakhulu.

The department is working with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the national Department of Tourism and the national Department of Environmental Affairs on the project, on its implications to the World Heritage Site and the EIA process. “We also want to ensure that by the end of February 2014 we will have a reworked business plan on the project,” said Mabuyakhulu. The site of the proposed project is not part of the World Heritage Site.

The EIA process is planned to start in March this year.

Mabuyakhulu said they would assist the Lesotho government to conduct its own feasibility study into the possibility of extending the cable way five kilometres into Lesotho territory, part of the Drakensberg range.

He said the consultation process around the cable car would be broadened to include Lesotho and the Free State, and the Free State had agreed to rehabilitate the R74 road, which was critical for the project’s success.

“While we have always understood the fact that we need to develop the economic potential of the Drakensberg area, we needed to strike a delicate balance between environmental preservation and the potential economic fortunes that will accrue out of this project,” said Mabuyakhulu.

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