Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
5 Jul 2021
11:31 am

Business groups ‘strongly’ oppose department’s move to block Karpowerships

Nica Richards

Business lobby groups in the Eastern Cape have vented their disagreement with the environment department's decision to stonewall powerships.

A Karadeniz Karpowership. Picture: Karpowership website

Following a rare win for the planet when the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) opted not to approve Karpowership South Africa’s environmental impact assessments (EIA), provinces where the ships were meant to dock are appealing the decision. 

In a statement released on Monday morning, the Eastern Cape Maritime Business Chamber (ECMBC) and the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Nelson Mandela Bay (Nafcoc NMB) announced they “strongly” disagreed with the DFFE’s decision.

“We will be appealing it as it is our right as representatives of an affected constituency”, ECMBC chairperson Unathi Sonti said. 

ALSO READ: Environmental affairs blocks Karpowership’s ‘toxic’ advances

Sonti said the DFFE notification was being reviewed “in detail”, adding the department’s conclusions regarding the EIAs were “short-sighted and uninformed”. 

“We believe that many of the concerns raised have already been more than adequately addressed, not just in the EIA, but in subsequent documentation also submitted to the DFFE.” 

Conservationists object to Karpowership projects

Roland Ngam, programme manager for climate justice and socioecological transformation at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, said last month that there was a lack of adequate public consultation surrounding the Karpowerships, a lack of noise pollution levels assessment, and studies laden with “new information” that was not made public. 

He also warned that those not in agreement with the DFFE decision would appeal the decision.

Those who have so far voiced their opposing views on Karpowerships include the South African National Parks, BirdLife, the Centre for Environmental Rights and The Green Connection, among others. 

ALSO READ: Consumers to pay for power ships, but no one knows how much

NGO Just Share’s executive director Tracey Davies, and climate change engagement director Robyn Hugo, told The Citizen in March that the Karpowership project used liquified natural gas, which is made of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. 

There are mounting concerns that the project could hold the country back from transitioning to renewable energy, and away from any kind of fossil fuel reliance. 

The project was initially presented by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy as a solution to Eskom’s electricity supply woes. 

The ships were due to be stationed at Coega, Richards Bay and Saldanha Bay for 20 years, to pump 1220 megawatts of power into the national grid. 

Concerns refuted 

Both ECMBC and Nafcoc said they viewed the Karpowership project’s public participation process as “robust”, and maintain the project met all of the country’s “stringent environmental requirements”.

Nafcoc NMB chairperson Mzukisi Gawu alluded to South Arica’s environmental impact considerations being more intense than other countries. 

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa: Renewable power sources are the way to growth

“[A]re we to understand that countries that have accepted a powership onto their shores have given less due consideration to the environmental impact than we?

“If yes, does the position still hold true when one considers that many western economies make use of powerships today or are the criticisms only levied against those in the global South?”

Gawu said communities and businesses had been engaging in discussions to help secure energy supply and help “an economy and people in distress”. 

Gawu said Nafcoc believed it was time “to look beyond the distractions of a convenient narrative to the root of the problem”.

According to Nafcoc and ECMBC, the Karpowership project would invest around R18 billion into the local economy, and provide 800,000 South Africans with reliable energy supply. 

READ NEXT: Mantashe’s new nuclear plan ‘passes the buck’ to future generations, won’t help current crisis