R300 bird report flawed

07 June 2004

Dear Sir or Madam

Although we agree with the need to develop Cape Town's transport infrastructure, we are concerned that the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed R300 toll road has some very serious omissions. The Southern Greenfields section of the proposed road will pass through Strandfontein Sewage Works, which forms the core of one of a network of global Important Bird Areas. Unfortunately, the bird specialist report fails to report adequately the importance of this site, or to consider the likely impacts of the proposed road development on the area's birds.

In a continent-wide review of key areas for bird conservation, the proposed False Bay Park, comprising the complex of wetlands at Strandfontein Sewage Works, Rondevlei and Zeekoeivlei, was identified as one of 101 Important Bird Areas in South Africa. These sites are recognised on the basis of supporting significant populations of threatened bird species and/or high concentrations of birds. Almost 250 bird species have been recorded at Strandfontein, with counts regularly exceeding 20 000 birds. Forty five waterbird species breed at the site and five nationally-threatened species regularly occur at the site. Although not officially recognised as a Ramsar wetland due to management considerations, Strandfontein hosts similar concentrations of waterbirds to other South African Ramsar sites, such as St Lucia wetland (a World Heritage Site) and Langebaan Lagoon.

The specialist report fails to highlight the importance of this site, and does not fully consider the impacts of a major freeway cutting through the heart of this complex of wetlands. Many species undertake daily flights between Strandfontein and Rondevlei/Zeekoeivlei, and these flight lines are likely to be disrupted. An earlier draft of the specialist report was rejected at the review process, and the issues raised at this review process have not been addressed adequately. The present study is discredited by its lack of perspective and its failure to make use of the large body of detailed information available on wetland birds in this area.

No well-founded decision regarding the proposed R300 development can be made until a well-founded and more widely endorsed study is undertaken.

Your sincerely

Prof Les Underhill
Director: Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town
President: BirdLife South Africa

Prof Morné du Plessis
Director: Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town

Callan Cohen
Scientific Portfolio, Cape Bird Club, local affiliate of BirdLife South Africa

(This is a copy of a letter sent out to the media.)

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