Cape Town – The Pietermaritzburg High court has ruled against a 512 holiday home development that would put buffer zones in and around South Africa’s World Heritage Site iSimangaliso Wetland Park at risk.
Judge Daya Pillay handed down a landmark decision late on Friday, 19 August 2016, in favour of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority’s protection.
The proposed 512- holiday home development on the banks of iSimangaliso’s Mgoboseleni Lake went ahead despite failing to acquire the necessary permissions and an environmental impact assessment (EIA). In late 2014, without any permission, two buyers began construction – putting the iSimangaliso Sodwana Bay section and neighbouring Lake Mgobeseleni and pristine Wilderness at risk, according to iSimangaliso authorities.
“This protection action is a necessary step by iSimangaliso in the fulfillment of its, and South Africa’s, commitments to UNESCO and to the people of South African to protect this global jewel” says iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis.
“The intention of the protection action was not aimed at disenfranchising people who have historical and legitimate rights, but rather to remove people who have attempted to appropriate rights which are not theirs and have not been taken up legally.
Action of one illegal developer to the environment is incalculable
“Unauthorised developments in and adjacent to the Park place the whole Park and its world heritage status at risk. The action of one illegal developer to the environment is incalculable. We appeal to all would-be developers to do the right thing and follow due process to ensure sustainable developments and real community benefits through job creation and co-ownership,” says Zaloumis.
“Buffer Zones are a key element for the conservation of World Heritage properties and a UNESCO requirement. They add a necessary additional layer of protection and seek to protect important aspects of biodiversity. This is a victory for the environment,” says Zaloumis.
An important nursery area for estuarine species
“Its global beauty, unique eco-systems and bio-diversity Mgoboseleni is an important complex estuarine lake system connected to an estuary by a stream which flows through rare swamp forest and mangroves. The Mgoboseleni Estuary is considered extremely important as a nursery area for estuarine-dependent marine species.
The estuarine lake also has a breeding population of crocodiles and hippopotami. The Park includes some 467 IUCN listed threatened species.
The court action was instituted by the park as well as the KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs against Feasey Property Group (Pty) Ltd, Matayo Trading 137 (Pty) Ltd, Vusisizwe Technical Operations (Pty) Ltd, Geoffrey Clifford Little, Don Chandler, and Johan Viljoen.
The developers have until the 31st of December 2016 to vacate and rehabilitate the site.
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