16 September 2019 – Press Release: LRC Challenges Granting of Environmental Authorisation to Cape Winelands District Municipality

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Press Release: Khanyisa Community Development Organisation and others v Director: Development Management Region 2, Western Cape Department of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and others
For Immediate Release: 16 September 2019
The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) is in the High Court of Cape Town on 16 September 2019.
We represent three community organisations working towards the upliftment and improvement of Worcester, the  applicants are the Khanyisa Community Development Organisation, Masibafikile Community Projects and Worcester Business Forum.
On behalf of our clients, the LRC is challenging the granting of an environmental authorisation to the Cape Winelands District Municipality (the “Municipality”) to erect a landfill in a poverty-stricken and environmentally delapidated part of Worcester. As a result of apartheid era town planning, the communities of Avian Park, Riverview, Johnsons Park, and Zwelethemba, which are located in the Southern Worcester area, are situated near to toxic and health-damaging industries and installations. These areas are waterlogged and highly polluted.  
A sewerage treatment plant is situated about 200 meters from the boundary of these areas, which emits foul odours into these communities on a regular basis.  A little further away is a cemetery, where the water table is so high that the coffins float to the surface of the ground. Water often has to be bailed out of grave pits at funerals.  A small distance further is an industrial effluent treatment plant, which sprays polluted water into the air on a regular basis in order to promote evaporation of the water from the pollution. This pollution is then entrained into the air and deposited in the surrounding areas. Avian Park is built on a floodplain with a very high water table, which inundates buildings, such as the creche built on the outskirts of the formal township.
Sewerage drains are often blocked resulting in sewerage being decanted onto the ground in the residential area. There are open sewers running through the area and past a creche. Until recently, fires from tyre burning on the landfill blanketed the area in thick smoke. The failure of the Municipality to make regular pickups of refuse has resulted in refuse being strewn around the residential area, and in puddles of water and sewerage which lie stagnant.
Children in Avian Park experience high levels of respiratory illnesses, such as tuberculosis, bronchitis, gastro-enteritis and skin problems. In addition to all of this, Avian Park, Riverview and Johnsons Park are within 3 km of an existing municipal waste dump, which is owned and operated by the Breede Valley Municipality.
The area is already beset with problems emanating from the existing landfill. These include traffic to and from the landfill, litter which blows off many of the open refuse trucks, illegal dumping, and, until recently, large volumes of smoke. It is into this area that that the Municipality now wishes to locate a 48 hectare waste landfill dump, which will receive unrecyclable waste from various surrounding towns.
The above environmental injustices known to the first respondent, Western Cape Department of local government, environmental affairs and development planning, granted an environment authorisation for a further landfill to be built in the community . An internal appeal was dismissed and  the second respondent (the “Provincial Minister”) confirmed the  authorisation.
Throughout the process, our clients raised concerns regarding the possible traffic impacts of the landfill, and the related effects on their health, well-being and safety.
A further concern raised by our clients was the fact that a landfill already exists within close proximity, and the cumulative effect the new development will have  on their health. No specialist study was conducted in relation to traffic and related impacts, and they were scarcely assessed or investigated.
The Environement Authorisation is challenged before Court on the following three grounds:
1.1 that the Department and Provincial Minister failed adequately to consider traffic impacts and related community health, well-being and safety
1.2 that the Department and Provincial Minister failed to apply the principle of environmental justice or consider the human aspects of the receiving environment; and
1.3 that the Department and Provincial Minister failed properly to consider alternatives.
The application is defended by the Department, Provincial Minister and the Cape Winelands District Municipality, on the basis that the potential traffic impacts during the construction and operational phases of the new regional landfill site were considered and it was established that the proposed project would result in insignificant impacts.
The Respondents argue that; the new regional landfill will supersede the existing landfill, it will be a modern, properly engineered facility.  One of the main reasons for its establishment was to avoid the problems associated with the current, smaller and older sites operated by the local municipalities in the district.  It will be operated in accordance with the terms and conditions of the environmental authorisation and the waste management licence  aimed at ensuring that the site is managed properly and audited regularly.   The negative impact the proposed landfill would have on the sense of community for neighbouring communities was adequately assessed as part of the SocioEconomic Impact Assessment. 
The study found that the impact would be mitigated by proper management of the site and its operation. The Respondents further argue tha they considered, assessed and evaluated the potential impacts including the cumulative impacts of the proposed regional landfill and whether the proposed mitigation measures would adequately address any potential impacts in a manner that would meet the objectives of the National Environmental Management Act and that the application ought to be dismissed by the Court.
The application will be heard on 16 September 2019 in the Cape High Court.
For More Information please contact:
Angela Andrews (Attorney on Record – CT Regional Office) on angela@lrc.org.za
Tad Khosa (National Office – Communications Officer)  on tad@lrc.org.za
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