Illegal commercial developments razed

THREE unauthorised commercial developments in the Coastal Forest Reserve section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park were dismantled yesterday by an independent contractor.

This took place in the presence of the sheriff of the high court. The park is South Africa's first world heritage site. The demolitions involved three sites - the so-called iNkwazi Resort, Joubert Resort and Bronkhorst Site.

iSimangaliso Authority chairperson Mavuso Msimang said: "After considerable efforts to try and persuade the unauthorised developers to make a voluntary and dignified exit from the park, we had no alternative but to take them to court.

"Their refusal to comply with the high court orders left us with no alternative but to carry out these orders ourselves - as mandated by the court."

Three of the four developers had been ordered to vacate, demolish and rehabilitate their sites by December 31 2009. The fourth was given until May 1 this year.

Criminal cases are also pending against the four commercial developments.

In a joint court application iSimangaliso Authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in the fourth matter argued that the developers were clearing virgin forest and erecting structures without permission, and without an environmental impact assessment.

This amounted to economic theft as it would prejudice the biodiversity of sensitive ecological systems precluding sustainable tourism development which would provide real benefits for neighbouring communities.

The developers had earlier ignored the court orders to dismantle these structures in this environmentally-sensitive section of the World Heritage Site and rehabilitate the sites.