Karpowership game farm 'donation' raises a new scent

Karpowership’s game farm ‘donation’ raises a new scent over the green stuff

Huh, Coming again… How is it possible that the discovery of Madaka Game Ranch (a high altitude area of ​​130km from the nearest coast of the Indian Ocean) can renew the negative impacts on living organisms and their habitats in an important conservation area for marine fish or migratory waterfowl? Has Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife been “bought” to look the other way?

Rightly or wrongly, these are some of the dangerous ideas that have taken hold and raised concerns among several groups interested in nature conservation and members of the public after Ezemvelo entered into biodiversity offset negotiations with a group of floating boats in Istanbul.

Offset agreements are new methods used around the world to compensate for the damage of development projects to the environment, usually by protecting or replacing an area with the same or similar ecological characteristics in the area adversely affected by the development.

Ezemvelo guidelines themselves provide for “non-essential” contracts or financial compensation, but only in “exceptional circumstances”, where it is not possible to find another similar accommodation.

Everyday Maverick invited Ezemvelo to express its views on these issues on 6 September, but the conservation agency has yet to respond formally, apart from stating that Madaka Ranchi has not yet been transferred to it, and any final agreements are subject to approval by the National Department. Forestry, Fishing and Environment (DFFE).

However, in a letter sent to the DFFE on 22 August, the conservation agency confirms (three times) that it will not object to Karpowership being given an environmental authorization for the Richards Bay power ships if the proposed measurement agreement is approved by the national department.

If the deal is approved, Madaka will be bought by Karpowership and handed over to Ezemvelo to expand the neighboring Thala site near Vryheid. This will increase the size of Thala’s conservation area of ​​29,653 hectares by 6%, thus enabling Ezemvelo to better conserve rhinos and elephants, as well as other plant or freshwater species such as the Barberton Mountain Sugarbush or the Southern Barred Minnow.

A close reading of Ezemvelo’s letter suggests that any agreements with Karpowership are also strictly subject to a separate and exclusive agreement relating to marine flora and fauna – with a clause providing for High Court arbitration if Karpowership could be withdrawn from the agreements.

But the exact terms of the sea leveling agreement remain unclear after proposals to rehabilitate the nearby ports of Mvoti, Nhlabane or the Thukela Marine Protected Area were deemed unfeasible in the short term.

Ezemvelo’s correspondence contains false assumptions, including the statement that “Ezemvelo is of the opinion that the purchase Madaka Farm if it is included in the Thala Game Reserve it will make a significant contribution to the biodiversity of KwaZulu-Natal and will ultimately benefit, to some extent, the marine ecosystem by protecting the natural services we provide in this area.”

Karpowership game farm 'donation' raises a new scent

Excerpt from Ezemvelo’s letter to DFFE on the Madaka deal. (Image: Provided)

Not surprisingly, Ezemvelo has come under severe criticism in various quarters and has been urged to clarify its position by publishing the full terms of any contracts with Karpowership.

The oldest environmental conservation group, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa), said Ezemvelo appears to have changed its previous position against aspects of the Karpowership proposal.

“Ezemvelo’s reported statement about the volte’s face and subsequent acceptance is very worrying, and the lack of consultation and transparency about the agreement itself creates the impression that Karpowership ‘bought’ permission for its project,” Wessa senior officials Helena Atkinson and Dr. Gary Koekemoer. he said.q

“Given the already bad reputation generated by Karpowership SA’s previous environmental accreditation efforts, it is troubling that the company appears to be looking to manipulate testing procedures to secure a favorable outcome.”

While offset agreements have the potential to restore wildlife habitat or prevent carbon emissions, “buying an animal farm cannot mitigate against the environmental impact” of energy ships.

Unfortunately, as shown in other projects, there may be opportunities for unscrupulous companies to ‘greenwash’ their unsustainable development and practices, thus undermining the machine’s reliability and threatening its future performance.”

Several concerns have been raised

Map showing the location of Madaka Farm Game Reserve and Thala Game Reserve. (Source: EIA report)

Atkinson and Koekemoer said the proposal raised several other concerns about the Madaka project, including whether Ezemvelo has the money or manpower to manage the new conservation area.

“Not seeing this agreement leaves these questions unanswered and means that the community cannot assess the value of biodiversity,” they said, adding that the community is also excluded from the assessment process.

“In the post-Hate Commission, South Africans desperately want their faith restored in our governance processes, and proof that companies are not just buying decisions to support their interests. “And in the midst of the extinction of many species around the world due to human activities, leaving a Critical Biodiversity Area that cannot be restored because things are like that and may be like that, is a failure of vision and responsibility of the provincial conservation authority,” he said.

However, for its part, Karpowership presented the Madaka plan as a “significant” agreement to reduce “residual environmental impacts” in Richards Bay.

It is also a demonstration of the company’s “unwavering commitment to the environmental sustainability of its projects” and considers decommissioning as an important tool to preserve biodiversity while allowing economic activities and socio-economic upliftment.

“As a show of support for Karpowership SA’s ambitious environmental conservation efforts, Ezemvelo has indicated that it will not reject the environmental authorization issued,” the company said on September 6.

All the same, some environmentalists watching the Carpowership EIA process closely are concerned.

‘Estuarine habitat is irreversible’

Karpowership shipyard in Richards Bay harbour. (Source: EIA report)

Professor Digby Cyrus, a senior estuaries specialist in fish and birds, said the sand and marine/estuary habitat in Richards Bay/Mhlathuze Estuary was classified as a Biodiversity Area (Level 1) and considered irreversible.

The proposed solution was therefore “unacceptable” in an area that formed an important breeding ground for juvenile fish and prawns on the KZN coast.

Because the proposal did not reveal details about specific coverage of the estuary, “one is left to ask: If the decision is made not to use the Mhlathuze estuary, and an equivalent estuary is not known to exist now, what will the termination option be?” implemented?

“It would be unacceptable for the DFFE to approve a estuary in such an important part of the Richards Bay Estuarine ecosystem without the actual method, its implementation, rehabilitation and operation, etc., being described in the Karpowership application.”

‘Unusual, unusual, illegal, wrong, wrong’

Karpowership game farm 'donation' raises a new scent

An aerial view of one of the lodges at Madaka Game Farm. (Photo: Google Maps)

Durban environmental lawyer Professor Jeremy Ridl described the proposal as “extraordinary”.

“If the ‘measurement’ is to buy Ezemvelo’s support for this project (or at least, not to oppose it), that is not only unusual, but also illegal, illegal, immoral, bad … there are not enough adjectives to describe it.”

Elaborating on this idea, Ridl said: “However, the reduction is dangerous. To use the ‘apples and oranges’ analogy, the trade is often like this – the perfect apple, one-of-a-kind bag of rotten oranges. It is delusional to think that the loss of pristine, irreplaceable wetlands, grasslands or marine life can be compensated (usually) by degraded land to be restored.

“It’s not a fair trade. Reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged land must be done anyway. It should not be rewarded for allowing the destruction of something precious and irreplaceable.”

In a journal article published in 2021, environmental researcher Dr. Jenny Pope and other academics at Northwestern University noted that the environment is often seen as “hidden concepts” and is often placed as a “last resort” when other options have been exhausted.

“Biodiversity is attractive to developers and often to regulators, as it appears to offer the most ‘one-world’ solution to the trade-offs that often occur in the adoption of development where some level of negative impact on the environment is unavoidable. “

“However, there are many voices that emphasize, saying that there are fundamental issues regarding this idea and practice of dealing with a variety of living plants and animals, which have reasons for the challenge from living things, practical things, economics, moral values ​​and philosophy. they are all connected to some extent.”

‘Communicate with caution’

Karpowership game farm 'donation' raises a new scent

Wildlife trophies at Madaka Game Ranch. (Photo: Madaka Game Ranch / Facebook)

The national guidelines for flora and fauna published by the DFFE also emphasize the point that: “Different species of flora and fauna should be separated from the trade. Biodiversity trading involves the exchange of a negative effect on biodiversity for a positive effect, which does not benefit biodiversity, and where it benefits biodiversity, it does not effectively counter the loss of biodiversity in the same way.

“Trade should be approached with extreme caution in the context of environmental authorization applications as South African law requires a reasonable relationship between environmental impacts and the conditions of environmental authorization intended to address those impacts.” DM


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