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”.