Civil Society Organisation Challenge Decision To Give Karpowership Yet Another Opportunity To Amend Their EIA Reports For Richards Bay

South Africans are reaching their breaking point with loadshedding and suffering its increasingly devastating impacts, leaving many wondering why there is such strong opposition to Karpowerships, especially since it is being touted as the silver bullet the country needs to solve the crisis. However,
according to civil society organisations – including the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), groundWork, The Green Connection, Natural Justice, and the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) – South Africans must be wary of this deal which, if approved, could have far-reaching implications. The organisations say they question government’s ongoing and unwavering support of Karpowerships, because even though the company failed to meet so many crucial deadlines, government is still willing to bend over backwards to accommodate this Turkish-based company, since they were first introduced more than three years ago.

Therefore, last week (23 May 2023), as part of ongoing civil action to hold Karpowerships and government accountable, these organisations lodged a joint appeal against the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s (DFFE) decision to grant condonation to Karpowership SA, to allow for the late submission of its further revised Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report, for its Richards Bay application. However, it is important to point out that the condonation was applied for and granted, without proper notice or any public participation.

According to the eco-justice organisations, “This effectively allows Karpowerships to make substantial and significant changes to the EIA, including specialist reports, which is then subject to another public comment period. Whilst public participation must be promoted in decision-making, repeated amendments place a significant burden on society to actively respond each time. We believe that the
process of granting the condonation was procedurally unfair. The lapsed EIA process could not be revived through the condonation approval. In terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), the appeal suspends the decision to grant condonation, and consequently, the processes that flow from this decision are also suspended. Therefore, by operation of the law, the EIA process for Richards Bay is

“The stubborn refusal of Karpowership and its service providers to honour the EIA process, as given in
South African law, is representative of its conduct in other countries. Locking Ghana, Lebanon, and other states into long-term energy contracts, which abuses the power of ordinary citizens to democratically choose their energy sources, being considerate of price, availability, and environmental protection. South Africans need to stand up and question why these powerships are being touted above all other options when it will not even address our energy crisis? The who, why and how needs to be publicly aired. Having a R200 billion investment sail away in 20 years is not a legacy for the youth of South Africa,” says groundWork Yegeshni Moodley.

The civil society organisations say they are concerned about the Karpowerships deals following media
reports that according to the CSIR and DMRE’s price evaluation bids, Karpowership could cost R218bllion and lock South Africans into a contract over a 20-year period (or R10.9 billion annually). They say that loadshedding is already stymying South Africa’s economic growth, and this kind of expensive energy has a potential to increase the electricity prices, which may, in turn, have a knock-on effect on prices of daily cost of living for everyone. Not to mention the threat of unemployment for small-scale fishers in affected areas.

According to The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy, “Since it was
first announced, the whole Karpowership deal has seemed dodgy. There were several critical
discrepancies compounded by poor public participation processes with the small-scale fishing
communities whose livelihoods would be affected by these vessels. The South African public needs to
know what the real cost of these Karpowerships would be, as this decision could affect us long into the
future. We cannot have these ships rammed down our throats.”

“Fishermen of Richards Bay do not want Karpowerships because it will destroy the fish, the plants and the beach, which we need to live and make a living,” says Nhlanhla Mbuyazi.

The organisations also point out that Karpowerships are not going to end the ongoing loadshedding in its entirety. And because costs could also be affected by foreign exchange rates for gas, such inappropriate solutions can have unintended consequences and introduce new risks to energy security. South Africans cannot afford to be locked into an expensive energy contract, and take on more debt, which hinders development and general socio-economic wellbeing.

“For a country like South Africa, where many rely on the sea for survival including for food and as a source of income, food security and protection of indigenous, local livelihoods is also of concern. It is anticipated that in the near future, “oceans around South Africa will continue to warm and become more acidic, with severe implications for marine living organisms and attendant economic activities.” This is already happening in New Zealand, where a large number of wild and farmed fish were decimated, due to a prolonged heatwave in the surrounding ocean. As Karpowership may operate near fish and mussel farms, or breeding ground for fish, it is imperative then that all the impacts emanating from its activities are properly and adequately assessed, to ensure that South Africa’s food security is not jeopardised,” the
organisations say.

South Africa is already experiencing the worsening impacts of climate change, such as prolonged droughts, Day Zeros, and flooding. From an economic perspective, the country has already spent approximately R900 million between 2016-2020 for drought relief, and this amount is anticipated to increase as climate change impacts worsen. Karpowerships cannot be part of a just transition because it would emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

The organisations say, “This never-ending, incremental EIA process for Karpowerships, outside of the
regulated process and timeframes, is an abuse of the EIA process. This is why we appeal the condonation application. Civil society has repeatedly expressed concerns about the inadequate public participation throughout the EIA process, and to add insult to injury, the public got no notice of any condonation application, until it was granted. It appears that there was no public participation on the condonatiion application itself. Question is, why did Karpowership need a fifth opportunity to include all relevant information in its EIA report? And, more importantly, why was it granted?”

Solene Smith, a small-scale fisher from Coastal Links Saldanha says, “I want to reiterate my
disappointment about how Karpowerships have been dealing with us as small-scale fishers and the coastal communities who rely on the ocean. We were not invited to the follow-up meeting with Triplo4 about public participation processes. It seems only commercial fishers were invited to the meeting. As smallscale fishers, we will continue to oppose Karpowerships because the area they want to moor is of great significance for us in terms of our heritage. Additionally, these ships will pose a threat to our fishing environment.”

SDCEA’s Tanica Naidoo says, “Karpowership has been unsuccessful in their attempts to moor their ships in the Richards Bay harbour. This is because the communities and fishermen of Richards Bay do not want another major polluting source on their shores. Many fishermen in Richards Bay rely on the ocean as a source of food and income and they do not want these Powerships coming and destroying the ocean. Will the decrease in loadshedding stages that come with Karpowership really be worth all the damage that will surely follow?”


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