The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has accepted the final scoping report and has given the go-ahead for Eskom’s Gamma-Grassridge power-line plan to proceed to the impact assessment phase, according to Acer, the environmental management consultants in charge of the project.
Landowners in the scenic Uitenhage bushveld area of the Eastern Cape have opposed Eskom’s plans to build two 765kV transmission lines through their farms because they fear the 150m-tall steel pylons spaced 400m apart will sabotage ecotourism and game ranching, destroy valuable valley thicket vegetation and endanger wildlife, particularly large birds. According to Eskom, the power lines – which will start 1 300km away at Secunda and each have a servitude of 80m – are urgently needed to support the new Coega Harbour Development as well as to strengthen the electricity supply to Port Elizabeth, and must be completed by 2009. Acer says the impact assessment will kick off with specialist investigations before a draft environmental impact report (EIR) is compiled towards the middle of the year.
The aim of the report is to investigate the environmental issues and concerns that have been identified during the scoping phase. M eanwhile, Acer has given the assurance that technical and public participation processes will continue and that the public will be given the opportunity to review the specialist reports, draft EIR as well as summary documents before the project is finalised. The impact assessment includes: An assessment of birds, vegetation and wetlands; A socioeconomic assessment and compensation study; A heritage and land-use assessment; A visual assessment; An electromagnetic field study. – Roelof Bezuidenhout