Developer put profit before the environment, says government

Alfred Moselakgomo

Alfred Moselakgomo

The construction of the new multimillion-rand shopping mall in Nelspruit has come to a complete standstill.

The provincial government ordered developers to stop construction because the company did not meet the environmental impact assessment requirements.

The Agriculture Department said that Ilanga Lifestyle Centre did not comply with provisions of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema).

The act states that before any construction can be undertaken, an environmental impact assessment has to be undertaken.

The department accused Ilanga Lifestyle Centre of putting profits before the environment.

It alleges that the developer not only failed to comply with Nema, but also with the National Water Act. The project is built within 30m of a stream, with the requisite application for a water licence.

Department spokesman Putsoa Makua said: "The developer failed to carry out an environmental impact assessment which is necessary to prevent environmental damage."

Makua said the owners of Ilanga Lifestyle Centre had applied for permission to build the mall in 1996. The then Nelspruit Council granted permission on condition that construction commenced within a year, but the developer did not adhere to the act and only began building the shopping centre this year.

Makua said: "The department, through its normal day-to-day monitoring, picked up the problem and brought to the developer's attention that the development was illegal.

"Instead of adhering to the rules, the developer presented a legal argument that said that it is not necessary to comply with Nema since he applied to build in 1998.

"We then scrutinised the act preceding Nema and the Environmental Conservation Act, and found that the development did not even comply with the act," he said.

Makua said his department issued a pre-compliance notice to the developer last month to enable him to apply for the licence, but the notice was ignored.

"This left us with no option but to issue a compliance notice that compelled the developer to stop building immediately or to face arrest," Makua said.

Attempts by Sowetan to get comment from Adeon Visagie, the director of Ilanga Lifestyle Centre, were unsuccessful.