KwaZulu-Natal’s official custodian of nature conservation has stepped into a pungent quagmire after entering into a provisional agreement that involves the ‘donation’ of a 1,784 hectare hunting ranch – ostensibly to counterbalance the negative impacts of Karpowership operations on the marine environment of Richards Bay harbour.
Ehhh, come again… How could the acquisition of Madaka Game Ranch (a high-altitude land parcel some 130km from the closest shoreline of the Indian Ocean) possibly ameliorate negative ecological impacts on a crucial nursery area for sea fish or migratory water birds? Has Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife been “bought off” to look the other way?
Rightly or wrongly, these are some of the damaging perceptions that have caught hold and raised concern among several conservation interest groups and members of the public after Ezemvelo entered into biodiversity offset negotiations with the Istanbul-based floating power ships group.
Offset agreements are relatively new mechanisms used across the world to make up for the damage of development projects on the environment, usually by safeguarding or restoring another area with the same or similar ecological features to the area negatively affected by development.
Ezemvelo’s own offset guidelines do make provision for “out-of-kind” agreements or for financial compensation, but only in “exceptional cases”, where it is not feasible to find similar alternative habitat.
Daily Maverick invited Ezemvelo to comment on these issues on 6 September, but the conservation agency has yet to respond officially, other than to state that Madaka Game Ranch has not been transferred…