In an earlier blog, Kgalagadi developments: have your say, I chuntered on about the proposed developments in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP). I laid out my concerns regarding roads, refuse, sewage, and the quality and supply of water, saying these should be addressed before any further developments were considered.
On our trip to the park in May, the validity of these concerns was amply demonstrated.
Second, the roads were particularly bad (could it be because staff was being redirected from ‘dragging’ duty to pumping water from various waterholes in the area to try to deal with the water shortage?).
And third, the toilets at Mata Mata were not working for three or four days. Try to imagine what that’s like, harnessing all your senses, including sight and smell. (Although camp management was handing out free game drives in apology for the problem, I’m sure everyone would much rather have had toilets that flushed.)
Yet, as I detailed in my earlier blog, SANParks wants to add more tourist facilities that will bring as many as 56 extra cars and 158 people into the park daily. I’ve also heard murmurings that they may be considering allowing private concessions in the park, which will bring in even more people.
This is worrying.
My question remains: why don’t they first sort out existing resources before putting roads, water supply and stinky sewage under even greater pressure from more tourists?
In March this year, I lodged some of these concerns with Delron Consulting, the company appointed to handle the public participation process. Now I’ve received a copy of the ‘Draft Basic Assessment Report’ which hints that the developments will go ahead willy-nilly, referring to leaving the park as it is as a ‘no-go alternative’.
And the report hasn’t put my concerns to rest either.
For instance, it states firmly that water for both the new luxury campsites and the new chalets at Nossob 'will be obtained from Nossob’s existing boreholes'.
Sorry, say that again? Can they really mean the existing boreholes that aren't even coping with current requirements, nevermind bunging more people and problems into the equation through these new developments?
Much the same 'solution' seems to be planned for sewage and solid waste, i.e. to stick to the current infrastructure and further burden already overburdened services.
The report says the new chalets and campsites will be provided with ‘full waterborne sewage which will be diverted to septic tanks, from where it will disposed of by means of a soil percolation system (soak away) or planted soil filter (reedbed)’. As far as I know, this soak away is how sewage is currently handled at both Nossob and Mata Mata, and we know that at peak times it becomes overburdened and has to be pumped out – and then presumably dumped who knows where.
So, if the past is the best predictor of the future, is this really an adequate solution?
As for the roads problem, the company line is that roads are graded once a month and dragged once a week. But regular visitors know there have been long periods when Nossob, for instance, hasn't seen a single grader, although the road between Polentswa and Dikbaardskolk does seem to be dragged fairly regularly.
Or at least it is, as long as there are no tractor problems or weather problems or water problems (requiring staff to be redeployed to pumping and transporting water, for instance) to prevent it. You get the picture, I’m sure.
But the report misses the point when responding to this concern, stating only: ‘The road network within the KTP is graded on a monthly basis (standard), and dragged on a bi weekly / weekly basis pending season and occupancy levels.’
Yes, we know this is what should happen in an ideal world, but it doesn’t tackle the query about what actually happens in practice. And if the real-world practice is currently inadequate, how much worse will it be if the proposed developments go ahead and more cars are thrown into the mix?
Since the KTP lies in an area of high unemployment, you could be forgiven for hoping that any developments that do go ahead would bolster employment in some significant way. Yet, although it’s estimated that the new developments will have a capital value of around R19 million, they will create just 11 ‘permanent new employment opportunities’.
Talk to the right people
Someone commented on the SANParks Forum on 5 August: ‘During the June/July holidays Nossob camp had a water problem resulting in no water at all. At Mata Mata the sewerage removal again was a huge problem…If the current camps cannot handle maximum occupancy how can it be feasible even to think of adding extra chalets/camps to the Nossob and Mata Mata area?’
Being a smart guy, he added: ‘I just wonder if the Section Rangers in the park are consulted when planning new chalets and camps. From their experience they can tell if it’s feasible or not, before even getting to the EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment].’
I couldn’t agree more. The poor Section Rangers are the ones who have to buckle down, fix the problem and take the flak when things go wrong, when water runs short or sewage stops working.
Let’s hear what they have to say about all of this.
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