South Africa power project put on hold due to fears it will impact fishers

Green Connection Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid

South Africa-based Environmental Assessment Practitioner Triplo4 Sustainable Solutions has finally confirmed the suspension of an application for environmental authorization for an offshore gas-to-power powership project in the country’s Western Cape region, as concerns emerge regarding likely adverse impacts on small-scale fishing activities and marine life in general.

Triplo4 Managing Director Hantie Plomp said the decision by the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries (DEFF) to suspend the company’s application for authorization and associated timeframes was “due to allegations made by Green Connection.”

Although the notification of the suspension of authorization was announced by Triplo4 Sustainable Solutions last week, DEFF had in August 2020 issued a release revoking the verbal and written approval it had granted the project in June 2020 and July 2020, respectively.

Green Connection, which empowers small-scale fishing communities and protects South Africa’s seas, had in a complaint to DEFF accused Triplo4 Sustainable Solutions – which carried out an EIA for Karpowership’s proposed gas to power powership project – of failing “to conduct a specialist study of the potential consequences or impacts of underwater noise generated by the ships – on the environment and marine resources of Saldanha Bay – prior to submission of the final environmental impact assessment report.”

“We are particularly concerned about the consequences for small-scale fishers of Saldanha Bay, who depend on a healthy ocean and marine environment for their livelihoods,” Green Connection Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid said in the previous petition to government.

Whereas the lifespan of the power project is 20 years, McDaid said there has been no comprehensive study on the potential consequences for the fish-rich bay over that period.

Green Connection, citing a study by the International Ocean Noise Coalition titled “Impact of Ocean Noise Pollution on Marine Biodiversity,” said “there is currently not enough information pertaining to underwater noise and vibration levels from floating power plant ships, in the context of the Port of Saldanha Bay, to indicate the impact.”

Noise pollution, the study said, “could impact adversely on the marine environment, and fish.”

“Saldanha Bay’s nutrient-rich waters are an essential nursery habitat for many fish species, therefore, the issue of noise impacts is particularly concerning given the decline in fish stocks and the location of the Powerships close to the shoreline,” McDaid said.

The Green Connection accused the power project developer of rushing through the project without following due process, with the intention of dealing with adverse impacts when they happen. According to the organization, by that time “many of the local fishers and communities in the area, who depend on the fish stocks for their very livelihood, could already find themselves destitute.”  

Photo courtesy of the Green Connection


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