published by the
Hout Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association (HBRRA)
Supplement to Hout&About
Supplement to Hout & About
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Article 1: Addressing the issues of Imizamo Yethu and Dontse Yakhe: the Residents’ Association takes action
Extracts from Environmental Impact report on Dontse Yakhe by independent Environmentalist Consultant Andre van der Spuy
Impacts on residents of Dontse-Yakhe, Erf 1509, Imizamo Yethu and Hout Bay
The environmental degradation, poverty and potential for outbreaks of disease within Dontse-Yakhe and Erf 1509 are immediately evident when inspecting these areas, in which residents exist in conditions of squalor. The impacts on the residents themselves, resulting from the un-planned and ill-serviced settlements, are not only immediate but have far-reaching consequences in their affect on the quality of life of individuals, families and indeed local and wider communities. Whereas there exists minimal formal infrastructure to speak of within Dontse-Yakhe, the recognised informal settlement of Imizamo Yethu, to which Dontse-Yakhe is uncomfortably adjoined, has also become directly impacted by the activities associated with Dontse-Yakhe, in so doing incurring similar impacts of abject poverty and susceptibility to ill-health and disease caused by the unsanitary and densely-populated conditions. The settlements are riddled with open cess-pits of foul effluent which are considered to be serious health hazards to residents in these areas and also to the wider Hout Bay community, but so too are they directly affecting the quality of life and indeed very existence of these residents, by contributing to a constant area-character of degradation and squalor.
Impacts on the Hout Bay River ecosystem, and on Skoorsteenkop/ Table Mountain National Park
The highly-elevated bacterial counts reported by the ECG and by extension the excessive nutrient levels in the Hout Bay River will contribute substantially to the ecologically unbalanced river ecosystem, and this is clearly evident. The river is typical of a disturbed system having poor to non-existent biological connectivity with its flood plain and being dominated by opportunistic (often alien) vegetation species that thrive on the elevated nutrient levels at the expense of a wider variety of riparian and aquatic species. This imbalance will be replicated in the structure of the aquatic biota and an overall lower-than-natural biodiversity will become (and is clearly) evident. It is noted too that the regular dredging by the City of Cape Town of the river in order to clear the river bed of dense stands of reeds and associated vegetation (most of which is alien invasive) is also a contributing factor to the river’s generally poor biological state.
While any pollution of the mountain is of concern, in this instance, the area above Dontse-Yakhe, comprising ‘Skoorsteenkop’, falls within the Table Mountain National Park- a declared World Heritage Site. Despite its status as such, the area has been progressively negatively affected by activities associated with the existence of Dontse-Yakhe, with the following impacts being evident:
The visual impact of the subject sites
While the assessment of visual impacts is considered to be a ‘value judgment’ and is by nature subjective, it is considered that the occupation of Dontse-Yakhe and Erf 1509 has severely impacted the greater environment of Hout Bay from, amongst others, a visual perspective. The prominent location of the settlements- in particular Dontse-Yakhe on account of its elevation- cannot be argued and the lack of formal infrastructure (e.g. housing, services, landscaping) results in what can be construed as visually undesirable areas.
Environmental Legislation which has been triggered by the existence of the settlements
Upon reference to the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA: Act No. 107 of 1998), as amended and specifically Government Notice No. R. 385 of April 2006 and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations, 2006, it is apparent that certain activities, listed in terms of GN. No. R 386, have been triggered as a result of the existence of the settlements, and the activities associated with these. Accordingly, it is contended that, in order for the settlements to exist legally and in a regulated manner which conforms to the law of South Africa, inter alia, environmental authorisations, granted in terms of NEMA would need to be obtained. Notwithstanding the requisite environmental authorisations, there exists other legislation (e.g. The Land Use Planning Ordinance, 15 of 1985 and the National Heritage Resources Act: NHRA: Act 25 of 1999, etc.) which would have to be met.
Finally, it is our suspicion that the present circumstances represent an unconstitutional situation. In Article 24 of the Constitution, environmental rights are put into the context of human health wherein it is stated “Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being;” Also, the rights of future generations in the context of sustainable development are recognised in the statement “and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources, while promoting justifiable economic and social development.” It is our view that these rights of all the inhabitants of Hout Bay are being violated.
Comments by the Residents’ Association on the draft Basic Assessment Report (dBAR) on the proposed in situ Upgrade (including Bulk Services) for the existing Hangberg Settlement on Erf 1860, 2844 and 0000-5, Hout Bay, W.Cape (Excerpt)
1. Context of the site under consideration
Our Association needs to state, up front, that the site under consideration is clearly not suitable for conventional hard development and, from this perspective, we cannot support the proposal as it is not consistent with official policies that normally inform development activity. The proposal is also not consistent with our Association’s own policies (regarding development) which, in turn, are largely based on relevant legislation and official policies.
Notwithstanding this, it seems that social considerations are driving the project as the site is already occupied by informal shacks and the City (the applicant) is loath to move the occupants for various reasons. It is our understanding that that the Province is likely to show / has already shown some sympathy for this situation.
Therefore, we believe that if the Province (the decision-maker), in its wisdom, decides to allow the project to go ahead (in spite of the limitation of the site and the dubious precedent that is sets), it will need to be very mindful of exactly what it is doing, and that it must take responsibility for this by setting suitable conditions which will act to minimize negative consequences and be sure that this is a one-off exception and, thereby, not set an unfortunate precedent.
Particular attention needs to be paid to this by the officials who draft the final Record of Decision.
2. Uncertainty regarding the form of the development that is being applied for, and implications thereof
The draft Basic Assessment Report (dBAR) and its appendices describe various ways to upgrade the existing informal settlement area and summarizes what is envisaged (somewhat vaguely) as an ‘incremental upgrade and formalization’. Provision is made for approx. 302 housing units, which is slightly more than is required right now While we realize that, in this Basic Assessment process, it has been necessary to investigate various ways of achieving objectives, at this stage we believe that it is necessary to clarify more exactly what form this ‘upgrading’ will take, particularly with respect to the type of dwelling structures envisaged.
This is of particular relevance because the authorities (and the interested and affected parties) need to know more exactly what type of development they are assessing and how it will fit into the ‘receiving environment’.
3. Containment of the Settlement
The application is, in effect, a retrospective approval of irregular residential development of which our Association is not supportive. However, under the particular circumstances, we recognize the critical housing shortage of accommodation in the Hangberg Village and the need to upgrade the area generally. We also acknowledge the fact that the spread of ‘bungalows’ has largely been contained and has been quite well regulated, it seems, by the local residents themselves in combination with the City authorities. Such co-operative action is supported, and is an essential to the success of this sort of project, should it go ahead.
Should the project be approved, a condition of approval should be the requirement for a binding agreement between the City, the beneficiaries of the project and the local community to the effect that further spread will not be tolerated, that law enforcement will act immediately should a transgression occur, and that the community will support such action. This should be overseen by the Provincial Administration although implementation should be done by the City. If possible there should be some sort of penalty for lack of action, and this should be imposed by the Province.
We cannot afford this lack of action from Law Enforcement. Therefore, we propose that the Provincial Administration, as a condition of approval, devise a mechanism whereby the City be penalised should encroachment occur and no action is timeously taken.
We note that SANParks has agreed to cede some of its land so as to enable this project to go ahead and that preliminary agreements have been reached in this regard, so that the Sewage Works and the Fire-Break are excluded from the Park and are the responsibility of the City. The fire-break must be properly managed and no structures allowed on it.
It is not clear where the actions resulting from the discussions and agreements reached with SANParks, have been completed. Clarity is needed here, and it is important the actions are properly followed through with, and not left undone, as sometimes happens with government departments. No one is checking on them.
5. Urban Edge:
We note that the City has in fact made allowance for the adjustment of the Urban Edge in this area. We believe that if the Province decides to support of this project, its support must be conditional on strict adherence to the new urban edge that this application has delineated.
Further creep into the adjacent mountain land must be vigorously resisted by the City (and the community). Ways of doing this (e.g. as suggested above) need to be decided on before formal approval, with regular monitoring by the authorities (supported by the community) being part of the conditions of approval. These mechanisms need to be put in place before approval so as to allow swift reaction in the instance of shack erections so that the transgressors are brought to book immediately.
We suggest that the urban edge be fenced but with pedestrian accesses to enable walkers to continue utilizing the mountain as a recreational facility, without inconveniencing them. The fencing should be visually permeable and/or covered in appropriate vegetation to as to minimize the visual impact of the development not only from below (or from Chapman’s Peak Drive) but also from above. The views (and ‘sense of place’) of people hiking on Hangberg (including The Sentinel), Karbonkelberg (including Kaptein’s Peak and other peaklets) and in the mountain across the valley (although these will not be so marked, being further away) need to be considered and accommodated.
The many pathways also need to be reduced and kept in better condition. It appears that the plan is to do this.
We note that no provision has been made for parking, and believe this is a short-coming. Provision should be made lower down.
We do not support the suggestion that the proposed outer road (for fire and maintenance) should be used for small cars as is suggested somewhere in the report. This will inevitably lead to abuse and encourage others to invade the land beyond the settlement. This should be anticipated and avoided. In fact, it might be better not to have a road at all, as it could also act as a convenient platform for squatting – exactly what needs to be avoided. These comments need to be carefully and realistically considered and implemented where appropriate.
7. Resource usage and environmentally-friendly design:
We note that the consult has recommended that resource efficiency and environmentally-friendly design be incorporated into the design and implementation of the project. This is in line with current policies and is welcomed. It needs to be followed up and monitored to make sure that measures are in fact implemented.
8. Environmental Management Plan (EMP):
We note that quite a comprehensive EMP has been included, and should be implemented.
9. Further Mitigating Conditions
Should this project be approved in some form, mitigating conditions need to be adopted and entrenched in the approval, with a funded mechanism for monitoring and law enforcement which will ensure that the conditions are in fact complied with. This is particularly important because it is our experience that, quite often, sensible conditions are imposed on approval of an application, but unfortunately there is no follow-up to make sure that they are complied with, and, even when deviations are reported, no action is taken by the relevant officials.
The inherent unsuitability of the site and substrate (sandy, erosive, too steep) and the fact that the site is adjacent to land that is reserved for the conservation of valuable natural mountain environment (TMNP) needs to be acknowledged along with specific conditions of approval being adopted to ensure, for example,
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