Island dream or Carol’s folly?

2010-09-19 10:51

Businesswoman Carol Bouwer’s incredible plan to build an artificial island for the super-rich off the coast of Cape Town to match those of the oil-rich Gulf nations has been criticised by environmentalists.

The multibillion-rand, 900ha man-made Peace Island to be developed between Robben Island and Dolphin Beach at Blouberg is the ambition of TV personality Bouwer and her husband, Edward Bouwer, who own TCD (Trade Centre Development) International.

The Peace Island website says the ­island would host luxury housing developments, an international trade centre, hotels, retail facilities and a maritime-themed entertainment complex.

Bouwer says the project has already attracted foreign investors – some of which include “Middle Eastern partners”.

The investment figure is pegged at between R50?billion and R80?billion.

According to the Peace Island website, the project is not only aimed at boosting economic development, foreign investment and tourism, but also at maintaining the South African heritage, and will use profits to develop low-cost housing on the mainland.

But environmentalists are not ­impressed.

The director of Cape Town Heritage Trust, Laura Robinson, says: “I very much doubt if the proponents have any idea about the implications of trying to undertake a development of this sort adjacent to two world heritage sites (Table Mountain and Robben Island)?… it makes no sense in terms of environmental or cultural concerns.”

She said it was unlikely that either the South African World Heritage Convention Committee or the Unesco World Heritage Committee would support the development.

Although the Peace Island website claims it has consulted a number of parties, including the University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) environmental sciences department, UCT head of ­environmental and geographical sciences Professor Michael Meadows said: “To be honest, I thought the whole thing was an elaborate April Fool’s hoax. Environmentally, it would be ­extremely problematic.”

Glen Ashton, an environmental researcher, said that unlike Dubai, which has developed the world-famous Palm ­Islands, the Cape coastline was subject to much higher wave and stronger current actions and construction of this nature would be short-lived.

Additionally, alterations to the shoreline would alter wave and current ­dynamics and “have huge knock-on ­effects”.

He said: “This is an idiotic idea and should be shelved before anybody else wastes more money on this foolishness. It will never be permitted and it borders on the insane to even contemplate it.”

Ashton quashed the claim that the ­development would enhance the habitat and biodiversity of the marine and terrestrial kingdom in Cape Town.

“Simply building any structures between the mainland and the island would bury any reefs or other habitats in the immediate area,” he said.

“Disruption to the circulation in the bay may create dead zones through ­de-oxygenation and the impacts would spread for miles beyond any construction, especially in such a high-energy and dynamic coastline.”

Branch co-ordinator at Earthlife Africa, Muna Lakhani, said the website’s claim that 10% of profit would be used to develop low-cost housing was tantamount to a “bribe”.

Lakhani said there was no mention of housing the poor on the island, and in the long run the development would drain the economy.

Repeated attempts to get comment from Bouwer proved unsuccessful. 

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