Sani Pass road tarring goes ahead

2014-05-21 00:00

TO tar or not to tar? That has been the ongoing debate with regard to the road up the Sani Pass that links KwaZulu-Natal with Lesotho.

Last year a Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) decision to gravel the surface following a Department of Transport (DoT) proposal to tar the road was appealed against by the KZN DoT and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, who both wanted the road to be tarred.

Now Environment Minister Edna Molewa has ruled on the appeal and authorised the upgrading of the road, approved with “a hardened road surface” thus overturning the original decision made by her department.

The DoT first proposed that the Sani Pass road be tarred all the way to the 2 865-metre high summit of the pass in 2005. Phase one of the project, involving the first 14 km of road, over relatively flat terrain, was quickly approved and work began in 2006. It took six years to complete and cost R200 million.

In 2007, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) process commenced for phase two — the 19 km section to the summit. A scoping report proposed six alternatives, ranging from “doing nothing” to driving a tunnel through the top of the mountain. The KZN DoT’s preferred option was alternative five: a tarred hard surface, but no tunnel.

Following the release of the draft EIA in 2011 most of the specialist studies recommended alternative three, which called for a gravel surface together with improved road drainage.

In the final report submitted to the DEA, KZN DóT recommended the hard surface go ahead.

However, the DEA opted for alternative three and accordingly issued an environmental authorisation to that effect on July 2.

The appeal by the KZN DoT and KZN Wildlife was opposed by the Southern Drakensberg Community Tourism Organisation (SDCTO) and the Sani Wildlife branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa).

At the time SDCTO chairperson Chris Wheeler said, “A gravel surface with improved drainage is the preferred option. To go with tar is not at all feasible in terms of cost and logistics.”

In her decision, Molewa said a gravel road would require “on going re-gravelling and the unsustainable practice of mining for road quarry”.

She also said that “hard-topping” the road would enable South Africa to meet its international obligations with regard to its neighbour Lesotho and that a “hardened surface” would see “economic benefits which will be experienced by a significantly greater proportion of people from South Africa and Lesotho” as opposed solely 4x4 drivers.

Wheeler said his position remained the same and that tarring the road will destroy the “sense of wilderness” that makes the Sani Pass a tourist draw card.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


5 top leg exercises for men

Here’s our selection of the five best leg exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home.


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Pornhub is giving users free access to premium content this holidays
5 top leg exercises for men
10 best dressed men of 2017
How to open a beer bottle without an opener
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.