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Sundays River road project scrutinised
16 March 2011
Guy Rogers


THE department of water affairs says it will be investigating the bridge-broadening project at Sunday’s River because the national roads agency should not be working on the bank or extracting water from the river without a permit. Mcamile Dweni, a scientist in the department of water affairs’ Port Elizabeth office, was responding yesterday to questions about the project and reports that a work team contracted by the agency is piling sand on the bank next to the existing bridge, and water is being extracted from a spot up-river.

He said Sanral had applied for a permit relating to both these envisaged activities.

“They have submitted this application. But the application is still being considered and no permit has been issued.”

Proper consideration of the applications is important because they relate to a possible change being made to the characteristics of the watercourse, he said. This can effect river flow, the fish and other animals that live in the river, and in the vegetation alongside it. It can also affect the existing uses of the river like fishing and boating.

“So we will be checking these reports. If these activities have begun, then they must stop, pending the outcome of the application.”

The Herald visited the site last week following an alert from a concerned reader.   Sand was being dumped in an uncontained pile on the west bank of the river, next to the existing bridge, on its seaward side.

Approaching the river from Port Elizabeth, a long dune on the seaward side of the N2 had been stripped of vegetation and this appeared to be where the extra sand was coming from.

A source in the environmental sector, who asked not to be named, said the danger with the stripped dune was that it could now migrate inexorably with on-shore winds onto the N2, resulting in considerable rectification costs in the long-term.

Because of reduced freshwater flow, the mouth of the Sundays River like so many of our estuaries is already threatening to close and any extra sand being pushed in from the bank either purposely or by mistake can exacerbate this situation, he said.

“Due to the construction of bridges both the Kariega and Bushman’s estuaries struggling to stay open. Cowie has to be regularly dredged because of silting.”

Water for the Sundays’ project is being extracted up-river and this activity should like-wise be carefully considered because of the affect it could have on the natural flow and ecology of the estuary, he said,

Izak Botha from Sanral’s PE office said the aim of the project is to extend the dual freeway from Hougham Park to past Sundays River, and the job will probably take about two years.

Botha said an environmental assessment had been done, and the approval granted by the national environment department included the right to de-vegetate a dune and remove sand from it.

Explaining the work at the river itself, he said the old bridge will be retained and a new one will simply be built alongside it to fit the profile of the new wider highway.

He said a permit for this work had been acquired and a permit for extracting water had “probably” been acquired but that this specific question should be put to the resident engineer.

A message was left for resident engineer Gert Fourie, but he had not responded by the time of going to print.

Environment department communications’ chief Albi Modise said a “basic assessment” was done for the project and environmental authorisation has been issued by his department.

This authorisation includes “cutting and stabilising of the dune to make provision for construction of the road in the road reserve”.

Asked about the dune migration concerns, he said the stabilisation process, once complete, would “limit” the mobility of the dune.

Asked about the bank and water extraction activity, Modise said the environment department instructed Sanral to obtain a water use license from the department of water affairs.

The environment department will nevertheless still be checking the situation in terms of its “compliance monitoring” approach, he said.

Sundays River Ratepayers’ Association chairman Colin Tunstead said the association did have initial concerns related to the activity on the bank and the dumped sand and its possible affect on the mouth of the estuary.

“But they have assured us that this sand is being bagged and it will all be contained by Friday, so we’re happy with that.”

He confirmed his understanding that water is being abstracted up-river, but said he did not believe enough was being removed to make it a concern.


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alcan 16 January 2012 12:24 pm

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dokhotelo 16 January 2012 10:40 am

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dokhotelo 16 January 2012 10:33 am

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Sherry 16 January 2012 9:17 am

Hope the constable and his partner (dog) are both doing better. That this had to happen on a Friday that also happens to be the 13th is weird . …

VernE 13 January 2012 6:36 pm

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dokhotelo 13 January 2012 2:33 pm

…..Where is the local ANCYL branch?….Is there any money to be made out of whatever for them???…………

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