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N2 Biodiversity offset

“Improving biodiversity of equal size and type to that which was removed, in the vicinity of the destroyed or moved biodiversity.” Online source. Lilonke kukuphucula indawo efana ngokwe nkangeleko nobukhulu nalendawo imoshakeleyo, kwindawo engekudanga nale imoshiweyo.

From as early as 1979, there have been plans to build a coastal N2 road through the wild coast. Over the years those plans remained just that, plans. Around 2011 whispers and rumbles of this development filled the air and those with foresight began to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities that would be offered by this multi-billion-rand infrastructure project. Fast forward to now, where there is a visible increase in activity in the village towns of Bizana, Flagstaff, Lusikisiki and Port St Johns. The road is really coming!

Local businesses have organised according to their sectors preparing to be part of the development. Two bridges will be built apha emaMpondweni, one will be eMthentu and the other is at Msikaba Gorge. The road will go through and disturb 15000 Ha of grasslands ekungamadlelo, wetlands esiyazi ngokuba yimigxobhozo and forests ekungamahlathi. The area has an indigenous and unique ecosystem that has to date not been disturbed, in an area where there is evidence of communities living as far back as 2000 years ago.

The road will be built from scratch, so it’s no surprise that this was an environmental nightmare. To compensate for the environmental damage, SANRAL set aside environmental rehabilitation funds to do a biodiversity offset to compensate for the damage to the biodiversity along the envisaged road. Equal and proportional improvement of like-for-like must be applied near the disturbed area. Where the road goes through a wetland, a wetland must be improved, where a section of a forest is removed, a forest must be improved. In 2016 SANRAL chose the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) as an implementing agent for their biodiversity offset project along the new N2 Wild coast toll road.

Biodiversity improvements that are well thought through can result in economic opportunities and increased tourism investment in the area. These in turn can be lifelong opportunities for employment for community members. The community will be the custodian and beneficiary of the biodiversity offsets in their area.

Environmental education has started in parts of Mpondoland. People are educated about veld fires and how they contribute to soil erosion if they are not deployed in an informed and technically sound manner that minimises the damage to the environment and the very same grazing land we want.

This is a 10-year project. The first two years have been dedicated to planning, identifying the affected areas, acquiring the land that will be improved from tribal councils. The subsequent 8 years being for implementation. Mr Mapiya from the ECPTA stressed their desire to be transparent in their dealings throughout the project. The three committees and forums that have been formed are geared at exactly that.

  • Biodiversity Technical Committee (BTC) – Meets at the head office in East London.
  • Project Steering Committee (PSC) – High level committee that guides the implementation. They rotate their sessions between Mbizana, IngquzaHill and PSJ local municipalities. .
  • Stakeholder’s Forum – Meets twice a year to give stakeholders on a broader scale information and let them have a voice in the implementation of the project.