Uproar has broken out among environmental experts following the City of Cape Town’s drilling into an aquifer located on a World Heritage site, despite the environmental threats created in the process.
A number of specialists, scientists and environmental groups such as Freshwater Consulting and Nick Helme have commented on the environmental threats posed by drilling into the aquifer of the World Heritage site at Kogelberg Nature Reserve which also forms part of the Unesco Man and Biosphere program.
Specialists feel the decision to drill in this area has been made while ignoring the National Environmental Management Act.
Cape Town’s water augmentation plans continue to receive resistance from environmental experts since a group of scientists wrote to the City earlier this year in February, expressing various concerns with regards to the drilling program.
The letter addressed the irreversible impacts that the immediate surface drilling, as well as long-term aquifer abstractions, could have on the ecosystem.
A report by Justine Ewart-Smith of Freshwater Consulting confirms the alkalinity of the extracted groundwater as “far greater than the Target Water Quality Range (TWQR)”.
Ewart-Smith’s report goes on to warn of the levels of Orthophosphates, Copper, Iron, Manganese and Zinc; all of which pose some level of risk to aquatic life in the area.
The concerns expressed by the group and Ewart-Smith, were also mirrored by botanical surveys specialist, Nick Helme, who documents a number of identified botanical impacts, including: the impact of chemicals used in the drilling process, the smothering of the soil surface and the sudden ‘explosion of unknown red algae’, which has ‘crowded out all other plant-life’, within two weeks of drilling.
“It would appear that the latter had not been obtained prior to drilling operations, and it is evident from my visit that the drilling activity in the higher sensitivity areas could indeed “significantly disrupt the integrity of the ecological systems”, Nick Helme wrote.
Since the influx of complaints and reports, the City has established an ‘Environmental Working Group’ to keep track of the drilling program, but sources say the City has employed volunteers to form the group as a cheap alternative to proper environmental impact assessments.
Pictures: Facebook/Andre Roux