Threat to wetland IBA, South Africa.

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Subject: Threat to wetland IBA, South Africa.
From: "Philip Whittington" <>
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2002 18:47:33 +0200
Dear Birders

Most of you within South Africa and many of you from other parts of
the world will have visited or will be familiar with Strandfontein
Sewage Works (known officially as the Cape Flats Waste Water 
Treatment Works) in the vicinity of Cape Town. Although consisting of 
a fully operational water treatment works and a largely artificial 
area of wetland, Strandfontein has long been a mecca for local and 
visiting birders alike, providing a greater diversity of aquatic 
habitats than any other locality on the Cape Flats. Access to the 
site has always been open to birders and we are very grateful to the 
authorities for this privilege. Monthly counts by the Cape Bird Club, 
which are now included as part of the national Co-ordinated Waterbird 
Counts (CWAC) scheme, run by the Avian Demography Unit, clearly 
identify this locality as one of South Africa's five most important 
sites for waterbirds. Summer counts consistently record over 10 000 
birds, contributing to the site's designation as an Important Bird 
Area (IBA). It's close proximity to Cape Town and its high density 
and diversity of waterbirds have made Strandfontein an automatic 
inclusion on the itinerary of most visiting birders, highlighting the 
potential that the area possesses for ecotourism.

However, there is currently a major threat to this wetland and the 
nearby Zandvlei Nature Reserve in the shape of the proposed R300 
(N21) ring road. This road is a toll road and a profit-making, 
private undertaking. It is not being financed by national or by 
regional government. While there is not complete objection to the 
entire route of the new road, the proposed Southern Greenfields 
Sections would result in the destruction of 25% of Strandfontein's 
oxidation pans and create a physical barrier between the 
Strandfontein complex and the adjacent Rondevlei and Zeekoevlei 
wetlands. Rondevlei is an important breeding area for a wide variety 
of resident water birds. Strandfontein is their principal feeding 
area and their numbers are augmented in summer by thousands of 
palaearctic migrants, such as White-winged Black Terns and 

The Greenfields Section also passes the northern boundary of the
Zandvlei Nature Reserve and will damage a six hectare section of the
road reserve. The strandveld vegetation within the road reserve is
the best condition vegetation in the entire Zandvlei region. The
direct loss of this six hectares will decrease the long term
viability of the reserve. Although minimum population size is not
known for most species the populations of many animals, such as
Cape Grysbok and Porcupine, may not be viable in the long term. In
addition to this there are numerous plant species which occur within
the road reserve but not in the neighbouring nature reserve. Perhaps 
the greatest impact of the proposed road will be the loss of 
aesthetic appeal of the reserve due to visual and audio pollution. 
Visitor numbers, in the form of organised environmental education 
groups and casual visitors, have been growing steadily in recent 
years.  Without doubt, the road will be audible and visible from all 
points within the reserve. This is aggravated by the fact that the 
road will have to be elevated in order to pass over the railway line 
and Keysers River on the north western boundary of the reserve. It is 
impossible to mitigate the effects of the road during this phase due 
to the direct loss of habitat and the impacts to the ecotourism 
potential of the reserve.

BirdLife South Africa, in conjunction with the Cape Bird Club, is
objecting to and opposing  this development. The proposal does not 
have the full support of the Cape Metropolitan Council but, having 
been designated a National Road, will be under consideration by 
central and provincial administrations. We believe that the loss of 
waterbodies, fragmentation of this wetland and the resulting 
reduction in its appeal to visiting birders and ecotourists 
will far outweigh any advantage gained by building this road. If you 
do not wish to see more wetland and important waterbird habitat 
disappear under yet another six lane highway, please consider taking 
the time to voice your opposition to this proposal. The first 
step is to register as an Interested and Affected Party with the 
facilitators (Chand Ecosense JV) and then to state why you are 
opposed to the project. Your objections need to be factual and 
relevant; the facilitators will discard emotive input if it is not 
backed up with factual detail. Full details of the proposed road can 
be found at the following websites:

Penway Consortium (the developers):

Zandvlei Trust:

To register as an Interested and Affected Party contact Emily 
Herschell at:

Chand Ecosense JV,
P.O. Box 6997,
South Africa
Tel. +27 (0)21 418 4212
Fax  +27 (0)21 418 6278

An example of the sort of points that could be raised are:

A comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment needs to take into 
account the affect of the development on the flora and fauna of the 
area over a period of annual seasons, otherwise the information is 
of little use in making an informed decision. The Penway timescales 
allocated to environmental study are hopelessly inadequate.

Does this road really benefit the community? The road will be in 
business for profit for 30 years before it has to be handed to 
National Government. No significant investment into local communities 
or the infrastructure of the Western Cape is planned from this 

The City of Cape Town, in its Integrated Metropolitan Environmental 
Policy for the next 20 years, is committed to "the conservation of 
fauna and flora and the City of Cape Town's unique biodiversity", 
"promotes appropriate transportation systems that reduce 
environmental impacts while increasing mobility for all", is 
"committed to minimising the need to travel and promote the use of 
public transport as a preferred mode of transport" and "supports 
community driven environmental projects and including communities in 
the decision making process". This proposed road makes it difficult 
for the city to uphold these committments. Upgrading the public 
transport system would seem to be a higher priority to reduce the 
number of vehicles on metropolitan roads and thus negating the "need" 
for extra roads to speed up travelling times.

Please register as an I and AP as soon as possible and make your 
opinions known to those involved in the decision making process. Your 
contribution could make the difference between conserving our natural 
heritage for future generations or losing it forever.

Conservation Committee of the Cape Bird Club. 

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