Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, has decided to delay construction of the De Hoop dam project in the face of environmental concerns.

Van Schalkwyk will partially uphold appeals against the project, and plans to issue a revised Record of Decision (RoD) on or before 13 October, pending the outcome of a strategic environmental assesment process.

The Minister said in his report that although there is a clear need for the De Hoop dam to be constructed, he has directed the Deparment to initiate a process, in partnership with Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and other major authorities, to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment or related process that would guide future development and inform levels of acceptable change for the area in question.

The proposed project is a dam on the Steelpoort river, between Steelpoort and Roossenekal, a tributary of the Olifants river, on the farm De Hoop. The Steelpoort river flows into Mozambique, where the Massingir dam, which is in the process of being upgraded, has been constructed on the same stretch of river.

The Minister accepts that the construction and operation of the dam will have ‘definite and substantial detrimental impacts on the environment’ and that since these effects cannot be avoided, ‘measures must be put in place to mitigate the potential impacts to acceptable levels’.

He is satisfied that the cumulative impacts to the environment have been adequately assessed in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), but is still concerned about further cumulative impacts.

Van Schalkwyk also stressed that the current RoD, granted on 22 November 2005, did not highlight any of the positive socio-economic and ecological impacts that the De Hoop project could have.

In reaching his decision, the Minister considered many aspects, primarily the following information:

* The content of the project file.

* The appeal documentation related to the matter, the consultant’s response and the appellants’ further responses thereto.

* The Department’s response to the grounds of appeals contained in the appeal submissions and the responses thereto.

* The experts’ specialist review.

* The appeals agianst the current RoD.

* Ecological sustainability (both aquatic and terrestrial).

* Socio-economic inadequacies.

* Procedural aspects of the EIA process and the record of decision.

He also appointed external experts to review the hydrological, ecological and procedural aspects of the EIA process and to advise him on the matter.

The applicant in the project is the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. It is a project of the Limpopo regional office of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and forms part of the Olifants River Water Resources Development Project (ORWRDP).

To read the full Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism report, please click the link below.

External weblinks

South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism