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Hotel to span Vaal River islands

A five-star hotel may span the last of the Vaal River’s untouched islands. This is of interest to our community as we participate in events that have been held over the years in this area. The Vredefort Dome Action Group is fighting this development and they are collecting support for their campaign.

Plans for the Vaal islands include: [from River Matters]

“Among the features of the plan are a 700-vehicle + 4 bus parking lot, which will take over an entire island. Some 340 beds are planned, and a wedding venue (loud music at all hours). The construction phase is likely to see rough sand and boulder bridges across the narrow channels between the islands. Sewage is to be piped to the Parys sewage works which already is unable to cope and regularly spills raw effluent into the Vaal.”

In another posting they mention that ”these islands are the haven of wildlife such as otters, leguaans, vervet monkeys, fish eagles and goliath heron. Until now they have been a riverine sanctuary, virtually undisturbed except by the occasional paddler or flyfisherman”. And, “the islands have special status within the Vredefort Dome structure, as the river here has worn channels through the underlying granite thrown up by the asteroid impact 2billion years ago. There are no other islands in the world like this, and their structure has created niches for a unique riverine ecology. Amongst river users who benefit, but who respect the environment, are fly fishermen, whitewater rafters, wilderness canoeists and local fishermen. But human numbers are small and most river users pass through without leaving a trace”.

Recent developments include a public hearing on 20 January (it was meant to be 24 February). EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) done by consultants for the hotel mention ‘mitigations’, recommended ways of reducing impact. In fact, EIAs should be recommending that the development does not go ahead at all, which is what the Vredefort Dome Action Group is fighting for. As River Matters says, “mitigations will not save the otters (two species), fish eagles and other water birds, leguaans, water mongoose, and other species which until now have seen the islands as their last refuge from encroaching human numbers”.

Details of the development and ongoing issues are available on River Matters and the Vredefort Dome Action Group’s Facebook group. There is also an online petition available.

Comments (6)

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  1. Nicholas Mulder says:

    Apart from the geomorphology of these islands being almost unique in the WORLD, and therefore of special importance, I can’t quite fathom why anyone would want to build on an island, never mind the flood plain of a big river. People have short memories.

  2. Karen Addison says:

    Feb 2006 the river was at about 1200 cumics. Today it is 200 cumics at Parys. The dam is 92% so there is a good chance of reaching that level again.

  3. Jeanne-Marie Van den Berg says:

    Residents of Parys and area are already constantly complaining about problems with vervet monkeys. This is mainly because of the scale of development aloung the rivier banks. This development will worsen the problem considerably. The islands in the river are the only safe area the monkeys have to flee to – where else must they go ?

  4. Picks says:

    I wonder if the people know about the 1 in 50 yr flood levels. We used to own 2 farms on the river and you will not believe how high the river can come up. Also NO insurance company will payout on flood damage under the high water flood mark.
    On the Transvaal side of the river the ground belongs to the GOVERNMENT from the middle of the river to the high level flood mark
    on the OFS side of the river the ground belongs to the registered ground owner until the middle of the river. Ours was on the Transvaal side where Stonehenge stands today. I hope they know about these laws, other otherwise they can be in for a good old time! when it floods

  5. ADVENTURELISA says:

    Well, I think they’ve got a flood situation at the moment. My mom’s friend sent through photos of their place on the Vaal river. House is high enough but large expanses of lawn and garden are human-height under water! Would be interesting to know what the islands look like now; and in any case I would assume that the islands would be affected by small rises in water so it cannot possibly be legal to build there anyway?

  6. Nicholas Mulder says:

    Three Rivers Golf Course is apparently under water already and there are other areas inundated. Vaal Dam at about 110% and pumping out approx 2000 cumecs at the moment. Anyone got any pics of the proposed building site?

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