Public participation: Pipeline study progressing well, but hotel one not open enough

2008-06-15 00:00

HOW does one explain excellence and mediocrity in the same firm and that in the pursuance of a similar task?

Oxymoronic appearances notwithstanding, we’re talking about the compilation by Golder Associates of two environmental impact assessments, one for a new multi-products pipeline from Durban to Gauteng, the other for a 660-hectare development at the Sani Pass Hotel.

While any further description would widen the gulf between the nature and scope of the projects, the investigations into their environmental impacts follow essentially the same path.

The process is comprehensively prescribed and follows a set of sequential steps to arrive at a final strategy in a bid to limit and mitigate environmental damage, both in the final structure, and during the construction phase.

The NMPP project is a particularly complex investigation, and must rank as one of the toughest of its kind. Motivated by a 4,2% year-on-year increase in demand for fuel with projections pointing to an inland consumption of 35 billion litres by 2030, six billion litres would need to be transported from Durban by 2010, and 24 billion litres by 2030.

Starting in Durban, the pipeline traverses the Free State and Mpumalanga before ending near Heidelberg in Gauteng. The negotiations on behalf of Transnet Pipelines involve numerous local and district municipalities, hundreds of landowners and thousands of “interested and affected parties”.

Its complexity notwithstanding, the process is moving forward fast. Not everyone is in agreement, and already the route from Durban to Pietermaritzburg has been revised, principally because the Assagay community threatened legal — and lengthy — action as the pipeline’s construction threatened the equestrian industry.

Other stakeholders, especially affected communities in the South Durban basin, are justifiably anxious about the pipeline and are totally opposed to it.

The point is, people are in the know and there is plenty of discourse on the NMPP.

The same cannot be said for the EIA of the Sani Pass Hotel and hopefully things will improve when the next meeting takes place in Underberg on the evening of June 26.

Those wanting to comment on the draft EIA may download the report from the Internet, or consult the two hard copies, at the hotel and the tourism information office in Underberg.

Proceedings to date have been disappointing and woefully inadequate for reasons not entirely clear. The report too seems weighed down by a review of current practices, and a little thin on specific recommendations. Time will tell.

Taxing matters

THE announcement in the 2008 Budget that the threshold for VAT registration pertaining to small business has been raised from R300 000 to R1 million was met by a chorus of appreciation.

What is not clear is when the provisions will kick into play. Some pundits believe it is already effective, others point to the SARS website that suggests the increase will coincide with the introduction of the simplified presumptive turnover tax for very small businesses in 2009.

The problem is that while some of the principles of the presumptive tax have been announced, several issues still need to be dealt with and refined after consultation with small business.

Eskom woes

A PETITION doing the rounds suggests that Eskom’s suspension of load shedding is paving the way for it to introduce exhorbitant tariff increases.

The e-mail also said the cut-off date for objections was June 19, and urged people to be less complacent.

E-mail thulani.gcabashe@eskom.co.za

Vulture prize

LOCAL vulture expert Sonja Krueger, an ecologist with Ezemvelo KZN, is a deserving winner of a new vulture conservation award.

Sponsored by the Endangered Wildlife Trust and Sasol, the accolade pays tribute to her efforts to protect the bearded vulture through a series of initiatives, including the fitment of satellite transponders to two birds to monitor their movements.

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