Approval of Eskom substation means bird sanctuary has to move

2018-06-21 16:42
Belinda Phetha with a Cape Eagle Owl at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in Ashburton.

Belinda Phetha with a Cape Eagle Owl at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in Ashburton. (Ian Carbutt)

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Ashburton’s African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is concerned about its future following approval of Eskom’s plans to build a substation for Ashburton.

Eskom embarked on an environmental impact report in respect of plans to erect a substation in close proximity to the sanctuary in March last year. The environmental authorisation for the substation was approved earlier this month, causing the sanctuary’s founders worry about the future and well-being of their birds.

The sanctuary is home to several species of birds of prey, most of them being threatened or endangered.

The sanctuary started a Bearded Vulture programme in 2015 in a bid to save the species from extinction. Bearded Vultures are critically endangered and are found only in South Africa.

The Bird of Prey Sanctuary director, Shannon Hoffman, said there were only around 200 of these vultures left in the Drakensberg. She said now the authorisation had been given for the substation, they may soon be told to move.

She said the authorisation documents had not given any time frames of when building would begin or when the sanctuary had to start moving.

Hoffman added that there was major concern over where the sanctuary would move to, the enormous cost of the move as well as building up the new grounds for the birds.

However, Eskom told The Witness that it is prepared to foot the bill for “reasonable” costs incurred in respect of the move.

Hoffman previously estimated that the cost of moving the sanctuary could be as much as R20 million.

Eskom said this week that they “have about five years” in which to start construction and “do not have a definite date”.

“The substation will be constructed on the property opposite the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary. It is estimated that the construction of the substation will start in January 2022 and be completed in December 2026,” said an Eskom spokesperson. The power giant added that they have informed the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary during discussions that should the decision be to relocate the sanctuary, Eskom will cover “reasonable costs ... provided that these are reasonably determined by the professional valuer”.

“Eskom has carried out an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which has taken cognisance of all the environmental issues including the Vulture Breeding programme,” Eskom said, adding they will use the services of a consultant to assist the sanctuary in finding alternative sites for relocation. “The consultant will do a feasibility study based on the availability of the sites and the criteria that the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary has put forward.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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