(Overlooking the Umzimvubu river and Pondoland bridge in Port St Johns. Photo: Louzel Lombard)
Cape Town - The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) says they will make the environment the first priority when constructing the Wild Coast Toll Road on the N2 in the Eastern Cape.
The road has been a controversial topic of discussion among stakeholders in the area, which is famous for its unspoilt and untouched natural surroundings.
Despite the backlash, construction of the multi-billion rand N2 Wild Coast toll road was given the green light in January this year. The project promises to create more than 6 700 direct jobs over a period of 5 years.
Former Minister of Environment and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk rejected the original proposal for the road in 2004 after his officials ruled that the first environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted lacked independence due to financial links to a private toll road consortium.
A second EIA assessment was conducted and in 2010 the Department of Environmental Affairs approved the toll road. The project however stalled following legal appeals by the Amadiba coastal community and other parties.
Now, SANRAL has initiated more environmental conservation programmes, designed to protect the Eastern Cape plant biological diversity and natural heritage of the Wild Coast as part of the environmental management plan of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road.
According to Mbulelo Peterson, SANRAL’s Southern Region Manager, “The environment and communities in the Wild Coast are and will be our first priority."
The successful service provider of environmental conservation for SANRAL will be responsible for search and rescue, horticultural and rehabilitation services of threatened, protected and rare plant species near the sites of the Msikaba and the Mtentu Bridges outside Lusikisiki and Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape.
Search and rescue missions will take place before all phases of the project, including the initial construction of haul roads to the Msikaba and Mtentu river bridge sites, scheduled for September 2016 – February 2017, as well as the construction of the two mega-bridges from early 2017 to late 2019. The same applies for the construction of all other road works and bridges up until 2021.
According to JP Roodt, Maropa communication’s head on behalf of SANRAL, the project includes completely new sections of road that are planned for the area between the Ndwalane and Ntafufu rivers towards Lusikisiki and between Lusikisiki and the Mtamvuna river just before Port Edward.
Roodt says it will amount to about 96km of road and “will include nine major bridges and three interchange bridges”.
The project also includes two mega-bridges across the Msikaba and Mtentu river gorges at a cost of R1.2-billion and R1.3 billion respectively.
Peterson promises that SANRAL considers the environment will all projects and that they will work closely with the National Botanical Institute throughout the process. "All rare, endangered and endemic species and species of conservation value will be translocated to suitable nurseries with the aim to both re-establish them in existing conservation areas and to assist with the rehabilitation of disturbed areas after construction," he says.
Peterson says SANRAL and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency will later announce more details on the environmental off-set agreement designed to mitigate the impact of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road on the local environment that cannot be avoided.
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