Protecting our Environment
"Castle Gorge to be mined for quartzite"
"Public road to be constructed over the Damhoek Pass in the vicinity of Castle Gorge"
This was to be the fate of one of our treasured hiking spots in the Magaliesberg.
Imagine Sunday hikes without Castle Gorge included in the program. Think of great pits in the ground and huge piles of sand waiting to be transported out, of big trucks chugging up and down the mountain, spewing exhaust fumes into the air. It would not stop there – the so-called development would result in a host of other features: pipelines, electricity, litter, noise, and in time, housing, transport and shops to accommodate the growing community of workers in the area.
In August 1977 the Minister of Planning and Environment proclaimed the Magaliesberg a ‘Natural Area’ under the Environmental Planning Act.
The above two potential developments came to light in 1980, namely, the application to mine quartzite on the farm Elandskraal, just upstream from Castle Gorge, and the plan for the construction of a public road over Damhoek Pass at Elandskraal.
If these developments were ever to be permitted, they would have made a mockery of the 1977 proclamation.
The Magaliesberg Protection Association (MPA) had been founded in 1975 for the purpose of encouraging the preservation of the Magaliesberg, and produced a comprehensive document detailing the impact that the above two developments would have on the mountain range.
The projects were subsequently frozen, and we currently enjoy the privilege of hiking in a beautiful, unspoilt expanse of land.
The MPA and Conservation of the Magaliesberg Mountain Range
The Magaliesberg has much to offer. It is geologically unique and scenically spectacular. It encompasses bushveld, highveld and mountain regions. It serves as a valuable water catchment area and is home to a vast diversity of plant and animal species, including several which are endemic to the range and listed as endangered. As hikers, we enjoy the steep and challenging inclines, the wooded kloofs and gorges, the vast open spaces on top of the mountain with views that go on forever, the interesting rock formations, the sparkling pools, rivers and waterfalls - the list is endless.
The mountain range is situated close to the largest urban conurbation in the country. Close to 10 million people live within a one hundred kilometre radius of the Magaliesberg mountain. The location of the Magaliesberg makes it extremely accessible to people, and as a consequence, vulnerable to their impacts.
The mountain range itself has a protected status, but the ‘green area’ which surrounds the mountain does not enjoy the same protection, and the expanding population and development in the surrounding areas are becoming a threat to the protected area.
Used sensibly, the Magaliesberg could provide superb opportunities to create greater environmental awareness for locals and tourists. Enjoyment of the mountain by the people of South Arica and the many visiting international tourists will enhance economic growth and prosperity for the greater area, but it needs careful planning and cooperation of all concerned – landowners, environmental groups, governmental departments, and entrepreneurs.
Ever since August 1977 the range has had some form of conservation status, initially as a ‘Nature Area’ and since 1989, as a ‘Protected Natural Environment’. From the early 1980’s until 1994 the conservation of the mountain range was the concern of the Magaliesberg Management Advisory Committee (MMAC), a statutory body which advised Government authorities with regard to the management of the range.
The Magaliesberg Protection Association (MPA) is a non-governmental organisation founded in 1975 in order to
Foster and encourage the preservation of the Magaliesberg
Advise the authorities and others on matters of policy and planning insofar as this affects the Magaliesberg
Participate in and initiate discussions and activities to achieve the above objectives
The MPA formed part of the MMAC which played a vital role in advising government on managing development in the Magaliesberg.
A look at the Milestones page on the MPA website will give an insight into their achievements over the years, as advisors, mediators, and conservationists, forming a link between Government and Provincial departments, landowners, and the mountain range.
The Kgaswane development
In July 2008 Messer’s Kevin Gill and Vincent Carruthers were doing a conservation status check and noticed a massive new development taking place near Olifantsnek, inside the Magaliesberg Protected Environment (MPE). This was communicated to the North West Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment who had only recently become aware of the development, and were in the process of prosecuting the developer.
The developer subsequently applied for rectification of his illegal development, and in March 2009 the Department informed the MPA that the developer’s application had been approved. The Environmental Management Framework (EMF) for the Magaliesberg classified the area “highly sensitive” but this was not gazetted until after the decision to approve the application, thus creating a loop hole through which the Department could ignore recommendations from its own EMF.
The MPA decided to object officially and a formal appeal was lodged with the MEC on 1 June 2009. On 5 February 2010 the MPA was informed that the MEC had dismissed the appeal.
In March 2010 the MPA decided to take the MEC’s decision to court on review and have been advised that there are reasonable prospects of success. However, success is not likely to mean that the lodge would be demolished, but rather that the MEC would be compelled to reconsider the development in the context of the environmental status of the area, and hopefully impose restrictions on the development, which will mitigate it’s impact on the Magaliesberg.
If the MEC’s decision is not challenged the prospect for more developments of this nature in the Magaliesberg Protected Environment are high.
The MPA has been able to acquire funds from various sources in order to appeal against this development, however it promises to be a long and expensive exercise, and the funding obtained so far will in all likelihood not suffice.
The Johannesburg Hiking Club has undertaken to support the MPA, and is currently endeavouring to raise funds by means of donations from its members and other interested parties.
If ever there was a need to get involved in preserving our precious environment, now is the time – let’s do it!
Should you wish to make a donation please contact our Club Administrator for the banking details.
Tel : 078 885 6505