Flawed Thyspunt Sense of Place Assessment
This is part of the social impact that can be expected if the project goes ahead. It should have received major attention in the SIR, but is hardly mentioned.
In terms of the EAP’s interpretation of the “Intensity” rating criteria, a high rating should be given where “valued, important, sensitive or vulnerable systems or communities are substantially affected.”
The Trust argues that the entire environment under consideration is an irreplaceable resource. It is home to an archaeological & paleontological treasure house of some of the earliest known history of mankind, which led SAHRA to reject the project out of hand; access requires major disturbance of wetlands in the by-pass headland dune field system, described by the Dune Morphology specialist as being one of the best examples in the world, and of high conservation value; it has claims to be declared a World Heritage Site; it will involve 150 kilometres of transmission lines, traversing areas described in the Transmission line EIA as being “areas of scenic beauty with wide-ranging vistas and low visual absorption capacity”, including the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve, which is itself a World Heritage Site. Furthermore, it is the sense of place which has attracted people to this “top end” area, which is now world-renowned.
Substantially affected this irreplaceable resource would be by the invasion of incompatible elements, such as massive industrial structures, roads, heavy traffic and equipment, transmission lines; and by artificially importing thousands of artisans and their families, and unemployed and unskilled job-seekers, with their construction villages, informal settlements, land invasion and accompanying social pathologies, for a decade or more.
The site was selected during the apartheid era, when strict influx controls were in place, and the authorities empowered to prevent mass migration of communities in search of work. The fact that this is no longer the case is a cause for rejoicing in the right context, but it can have strong, unmitigable environmental impacts, which can be damaging to sense of place. This has to be factored into any EIA with regard to massive developments, and the implications for an area responsibly assessed. The Social Impact Report virtually ignores it, dismissing it as a “possibility”.
There is no avoiding the fact that this is an inevitable and unmitigable impact; that it will change for ever the sense of place of this area; that the community will be “substantially affected” ,or that this is an irreplaceable resource.
In terms of the EAP’S interpretation of “Intensity”, this can only lead to a “high” significance rating for loss of sense of place, which is a fatal flaw.