Many readers will know of my aversion to wind energy. It isn’t that I don’t like the idea of the wind being harnessed to help mankind, it’s just that I detest the machinery – great milling engines, wheeling endlessly when the wind blows, acres of these pestilential engineering horrors, absolutely and comprehensively destructive of the beauty of the natural surroundings into which they are injected. A plague upon them.
Ismail Bhorat describes himself and his family as coming “from a background where people of colour like us were not allowed to own farms and tracts of land”. So what has he done about things, now that the status quo has changed? Bhorat’s father, it seems, established a good business and “eventually had the means to develop a game reserve”. He says it is the Western Cape’s first wholly black-owned game reserve.
The reserve, Melozhori, was created out of a dilapidated sheep and cattle farm outside Stormsvlei in the Overberg. Bhorat says the region is tranquil, enjoys panoramic views, and is well located off major tourist nodes. He says the area has been transformed from overgrazed farmland to a wilderness providing sustenance to much wildlife.
This entailed rehabilitating the veld, sowing grass, planting trees, removing alien vegetation, restoring erosion and then reintroducing more than 15 species of game. Melozhori is now home to a certified pure herd of bontebok, and about 120 species of birdlife have been recorded.
Now get this: the reserve was developed, says Bhorat, using a management plan approved under new regulations and in close consultation with CapeNature officials. Bhorat says it is “a pristine wilderness close to Cape Town”. Everything was getting along just fine until, lo and behold, those purveyors of wind energy struck. They intend developing a wind farm adjacent to Melozhori. It is the intention, I understand, to erect 30 200m-high wind turbines on 1700ha. The effect, claims Bhorat, “will be devastating”. The property is located high on the scenic Riviersonderend mountain range in mountain fynbos and renosterveld. The windmills will be seen from kilometres around.
The area is commonly known as the “Gateway to the Overberg” and Bhorat tells me sightings of the rare Cape mountain leopard have been reported. It is also home to black eagles and a sizeable baboon population, and the region is a popular migratory route for birds travelling from the nearby Sonderend river to the region’s canola, wheat and sunflower fields. According to Birdlife SA and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the proposed site is an “area of high bird sensitivity”.
Bhorat points to a 2006 study commissioned by the Department of Environmental Affairs and says he is “astonished that the (windmills) developer would propose a development on this site after it is clearly apparent that (it) is in contravention with the methodologies used to identify areas suitable for wind energy developments and the overall recommendations of the report”.
Dear Helen Zille, as premier of the Western Cape, you really need to take a personal interest in what’s happening in your back garden. On the other hand, if you don’t mind that much, and if the destruction of rare panoramas doesn’t matter (let alone game reserves), why don’t we press ahead with a new windmill farm on top of Table Mountain, where the wind really blows? That should stimulate some interest. I mean, where will the famed Cape Greenies be then? And what about the same Greenies kicking emerging black tourism generators into touch? Of course, I suppose they don’t count for much. Yours sincerely, etc.
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