Overwhelming turnout for Drakensberg cable car planning meet

2013-11-25 09:22
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Giant's Castle - home to the endangered Beared Vulture

Scott Ramsey explores the Central Drakensberg - home to Giant’s Castle, the best place to see one of Africa’s rarest birds.

Bergville - Thousands of members of the Busingatha community, near Bergville, took part in a public meeting on Saturday to discuss plans to install a cable car in the Drakensberg.

The proposed cableway impacts mainly on the amaZizi community, who live in the Busingatha valley.

According to a Witness report, the Economic Development and Tourism Department spokesperson Siyabonga Maphumulo described the numbers who turned up as “overwhelming”, adding that two huge tents erected at the venue were filled to capacity.

The public meeting was part of a four-month consultation process launched by the department following the release of a a feasibility study into the construction of the proposed Drakensberg cable car at the end of July. These processes are expected to be completed in December.  Thereafter, a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be done.

The initiative was identified as a catalytic project that could dramatically change the tourism landscape of the province in its 20-year tourism master plan but members of the amaZizi community previously expressed reservations about the project and the mass meetings are an attempt to address this.

The key concern being  impact of the project on the Drakensberg's World Heritage Site status - but the cableway is pegged for outside the World Heritage Site uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.

Mount Amery was identified as the summit terminus for the proposed cableway, with the base station located near Woodstock Dam, a distance of approximately seven kilometres.

The cableway can be constructed either in a single span or, the cheaper option, with supporting pylons.

Parallel to this process a business plan will be drawn up. These processes should be completed by December. Thereafter, a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be done.

At the previous meeting held in July tourism industry planning consultant Graham Muller said community support was key to the success of the project.

The cableway impacts mainly on the amaZizi community, who live in the Busingatha valley section of the Mnweni area of the Drakensberg, which is also home to the amaNgwane community.

The upgrade of the R74 is seen as a key feature of the project, with money being made available in the Free State for the upgrade.

The road from the Free State is currently impassable and this has resulted in a negative economic impact on businesses in the area. For example Little Switzerland hotel has closed.

 - The feasibility study will be made available at: www.kznded.gov.za 








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