Michele du Plessis
Informal settlements clusters growing daily around the towns in the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality (TCLM). According to the Mpumalanga Housing Needs Register, the backlog is 3239 households, with the TCLM Integrated Development Plan states a backlog of 14468 households.
In September 2015, during community protests, the residents of Sabie brought the various problems to the attention of TCLM. Subsequently, TCLM has identified the remaining extent of Portion 96 and Portion 111 of the Farm Grootfontein 196-JT, an extension of the Harmony Hill Township, for Township Establishment to address the issues of Housing in the Sabie area.
With the release of the Scoping Report done by Environmental Impact Management Services (Pty) Ltd, various matters arose that cause concern:
Groundwater sources: Sabie pumps water from an old mine shaft and is it currently sufficient to supply the town with water. “It is however reported that the groundwater abstracted is fossilised water and should be protected. Further detailed investigations are required to augment the groundwater abstraction with surface sources, (Thaba Chweu Local Municipality Integrated Development Plan 2016/17).” TCLM is, however, experiencing challenges on basic delivery issues and available funding cannot eradicate the current backlogs.
“The municipal state of finance is in a dire situation and as a result, it is unable to fund most of these projects hence service delivery is hampered. The support from provincial departments has not been adequate to make a greater impact in the entire society of TCLM (TCLM IDP 2016/17).”
The dolomite area: “During construction certain hazardous substances may be utilized and possibly stored on site. Groundwater contamination may occur as a result of hydrocarbon (oil and diesel) spillages on the surface. The probability and magnitude of this impact are dependent to a large extent on the correct use, implementation and storage of relevant hazardous and dangerous substances.”
Fauna Direct and Indirect Mortality: There are two plant species protected according to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, that have a geographical distribution that includes the site. These are Merwilla plumbea and Crinum bulbispermum, both of which could potentially occur on site. Watercourses in the form of wetlands and drainage lines on the site are a definite cause for concern. There are various species of concern that could or do occur on site based on their geographical distribution. Sedentary species that could occur on site are the reptile species of conservation concern, i.e. the Coppery Grass Lizard, Near Threatened (NT) and the Large-scaled Grass Lizard (NT).The site contains habitat that is suitable for various frog species, although only one protected species could potentially occur on site, the Giant Bullfrog. Various bird species i.e. the Lanner Falcon (VU), Striped Flufftail (VU), Secretarybird (VU), Blue Crane (NT), and Abdim’s Stork (NT) may also be present. It is recommended that Botanical and Herpetological pre-construction walk-through surveys be undertaken.
Safety and Security: The presence of construction workers, but more importantly, the potential influx of, especially, criminal opportunists, could potentially affect the safety and security of residents of surrounding settlements. Furthermore, increased human activities during construction add to the risk of accidental veld and forest fires.
Damage/ Disruption of Services: “Eskom distribution lines transverse the proposed project and may have to be re-routed to align with the new development. Vibration during construction may also have negative impacts on the concrete water reservoir and its pipeline/s.”