Kruger hotel to be 'greener' after criticism

2014-09-18 14:27
The preferred site for the development of a Radisson Blu resort. (V&L scoping report)

The preferred site for the development of a Radisson Blu resort. (V&L scoping report)

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Cape Town – The proposal for the construction of an upmarket hotel within the boundaries of the Kruger National Park has lapsed, but the developer has re-worked the design for a greener offering.

“There have been significant alterations to the design, including an off-grid power design for what will now be a tented resort,” environmental assessment practitioner for NuLeaf consultants, Dereck Milburn, told News24.

“An international company specialising in alternative energy solutions has been appointed to design solar and other energy sources, which will form a large component of the energy requirement.”

The initial plan was to build a four-star hotel to be operated by the Radisson Blu group near the Malelane gate. It had a target market of the new black middle class and would provide an upmarket alternative to the existing camps and lodges.

According to an earlier AFP report the decision to build a hotel was met with disapproval by staunch nature lovers who argue that the hotel will degrade the reserve's ecology and ambiance.

Milburn says NuLeaf, which is conducting the environmental impact assessment (EIA) on behalf of Malelane Safari Resort Investments (MSRI), was aware that the application would lapse and would like to bring the project in line with recent amendments to EIA regulations.

MSRI CEO Peter Wright and SanParks managing executive Glenn Phillips have both confirmed that the project is going ahead.

Wright told Tourism Update that the company is continuing with all processes necessary to construct and operate the resort.

Biologically sensitive

The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa), which was involved in the application as an interested and affected party, opposed the development and raised a number of "critical environmental risks".

These include the fact that the preferred site is on a biologically sensitive area with a number of red data species, disturbance from the hotel is likely to scare game away from an important drinking access point, and night traffic is likely to heavily impact hippopotamus and crocodile pools in the area.

“We are of the opinion that some of the alternative development sites are less environmentally sensitive than the preferred site,” Wessa governance programme manager Morgan Griffiths told News24. “We hope that they will be persuaded to pursue one of the appropriate alternatives.”

According to Milburn MSRI still prefers the contested site, but adds that development will be less intensive as it is not going to be a "hotel in the bush" but a low profile tented safari camp.

“All species will be identified and protected as far as possible with buffer zones and where absolutely necessary permits will be obtained to remove trees,” he said.

Due to significant design changes in the development plan which will follow the amended 2010 National Environmental Management Act (Nema) regulations, a full EIA will no longer be required, only a basic assessment report.

- Follow Dane on Twitter

Read more on:    sanparks  |  mbombela  |  environment

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