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The Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork - Friends of the Earth South Africa and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) have appealed the environmental authorization granted to Colenso Power by the Minister of Environmental Affairs for the proposed coal-fired power station in the KwaZulu Natal town of Colenso, South Africa. Real World Radio has interviewed Bobby Peek, director of groundWork, to discuss the reasons for the appeal and the environmental impacts of the power station.
Colenso Power has been granted environmental authorization for their 1000 megawatt coal-fired power station in Colenso. Peek claims there are a number of troubling features of this agreement, starting with the timeframe of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted. The Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa that deals with these assessments decided to shorten the length of the EIA from one year to just a couple of months. According to Peek, this is problematic due to the size of the power station and the fact that the EIA excludes external factors such as seasons and the majority of climatic conditions in the region.
In their Environmental Impact Report (EIR), Colenso Power has failed to mention where they will obtain two-thirds of the required coal, and have stated that they will use a mere 186,000 litres of water per day, when according to Peek, the figure is believed to be closer to 1 million litres per day. As KwaZulu Natal has been facing a water shortage for almost two years, this project is expected to greatly affect surrounding communities, in addition to the negative effects on health caused by the transport, mining, burning, and toxic waste of coal. According to Peek, ‘this won’t only impact peoples health directly, but pollute the local water, resulting in acid mine drainage and polluting of the Thukela river.’ Peek claims the company and the South African government are ’ignoring reality’ by failing to assess the impacts on health, and it is something that needs to be challenged, for instance by assessing air quality, water quality, and long-term climate issues as well.
Communities in Colenso have been left in the dark in regards to the expected impacts of the power station, as most of them do not speak English and there has been little translation and meaningful dialogue between the company and surrounding communities. In addition to filing the appeal, groundWork and the SDCEA have been working to connect communities in KwaZulu Natal, ‘the hotbed of fossil fuel extraction,’ in order for them to speak together and realise that a problem for one community is a problem for all communities. As further stated by Peek, “The old ANC (African National Congress) slogan was ‘an injury to one is an injury to all,’ so we try to connect community resistance and bring community resistance together so that in the process of togetherness, we can get strength and […] link these various struggles.”
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