Sani Pass Upgrade

04 Jan 2008 21:48 - 05 Jan 2008 10:39 #32 by domsmooth
Environmental authorisation has been granted to move the border post further down the pass. Apparently there is also more than just talk about tarring the pass. It appears that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) will be started soon to appeal for authorisation for this development. This could make a \"satara\" out of Sani top chalet. My concern being an environmentalist is that the relatively free access to the top will cause degradation and increase pollution of the area. Obviously part of the EIA will need to assess the impact of tarring the road on the world heritage status of UDP.

Another EIA under way is the department of transport's application to formalise the \"Thule Rustlers\" route. The route currently exists as a very rough 4x4 track used by either farmers or stock thieves, or both. The stock thieves use the access route, and the farmers chase the rustlers up the road. It is however outside the protected area of the UDP. Obviously all this makes one wonder... What future does this magnificent natural museum and natural resource have? I hopefully will start posting more articles here about Berg fauna and flora. Watch this space.

Lets all help maintain the values for which the Berg was proclaimed a World Heritage Site
Last Edit: 05 Jan 2008 10:39 by domsmooth.

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05 Jan 2008 10:44 - 05 Jan 2008 10:45 #33 by domsmooth
The following info is courtesy of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife website, and can be viewed on their site at the following link . A photo gallery can also be viewed here .


The projects aims to redevelop the current Sani Border Post located on Sani Pass to the Good Hope Site that has been selected on the periphery of the Ukhlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site. The repositioning of the border post will thus provide a more functional border operation that will support the international trade and development relations of the partner countries with the TFCA whilst ensuring that the impact to the environment is minimised and managed with more effectiveness.

The current South African Sani Pass Border Post location is 13.5 km into the middle of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which is a World Heritage Site and is considered to be inappropriate in terms of international ‘best practice’. The Sani Pass road is a vitally important trade and tourism link and the only direct vehicle access route between Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal.

In May 2002, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), who are responsible for the management of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site (UDP WHS), submitted a recommendation to the Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee (BCOCC) motivating for the relocation of the existing Sani Pass Border Post to a new site on the edge of the UDP WHS. The proposed site location was the former ‘Good Hope’ trading store. In May 2003, the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Project (MDTP) met with the BCOCC in Pretoria to introduce them to the transfrontier project and to resurrect EKZNW’s proposal. A site visit was held on the 26 June 2003 with the BCOCC, EKZNW, KZN Tourism Authority and MDTP where the offer by the MDTP to facilitate a study to investigate the implications and costs of relocation to the Good Hope site was welcomed by all. On the 28th November 2003 David Totman & Associates were appointed by the MDTP to undertake this study.

Lets all help maintain the values for which the Berg was proclaimed a World Heritage Site
Last Edit: 05 Jan 2008 10:45 by domsmooth.

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05 Jan 2008 12:06 - 05 Jan 2008 12:07 #34 by intrepid
As a mountaineer I love the wildness of the Berg and that it is so undeveloped. Personally I don't like the fact that there is a road cutting through one of my favourite mountain ranges!

But I also see it as inevitable and probably necessary in the big scheme of things. Development must take place and the people living in these areas must benefit too. I do sympathise with the tour operators that will be affected by it in the short term, but at the same time change is good - it will bring about new opportunities.

We have gotten used to having Sentinel Car Park, giving quick access to the escarpment and we don't really seem to mind Sani Pass as it currently is - it's useful. I think in time we will get used to having a tar road and it will benefit us. For example it will make a weekend trip to Thabana Ntlenyana and the Giants Cup quite possible for us hikers.

What does grieve me is the short term environmental impact of this: the construction, the increased traffic and tourism, the litter etc (have a look at the horrifying heaps of litter that already exists on top!). I doubt that this will be managed properly initially and it will hurt to see the area suffer.

I just hope that this kind of development will be limited to areas like Sani Pass, Amphitheatre and Champagne Castle. May the rest remain wild!

Hey, one of the remotest and least developed areas of the KZN Berg is right next door to Sani Pass - namely Vergelegen...it is a fantastic area...with some of SA's highest peaks and worthy passes.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last Edit: 05 Jan 2008 12:07 by intrepid.

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28 Jan 2008 00:46 - 19 May 2008 22:25 #52 by domsmooth
As a hiker and an environmentalist, it is a difficult thing. I hear your point about the Sentinel car park but ask any other environmentalist about the impacts of hardened surfaces in a high rainfall area, and they will cringe. The possible impacts of erosion are massive. One hopes the engineers designing the runoff will get it right to try reduce the erosion as far as possible. The number of day visitors going to Sani top chalet will make it somewhat like the top of Table mountain... And, yes there is the concern about the litter!

From an environmental perspective, the moving of the border post is a good thing, and one hopes that Ezemvelo rehabilitate the current area once the current border post is decommissioned and broken down. The world heritage status of the area, from what I can gather is quite a big thing for the country, and the management of such a heritage is vital. More than that, it is a critical area for water supply in an otherwise dry country (overall..). Gauteng and KZN draw their water resources from these vital catchments. It is critical that these catchments are managed appropriately, even just from that perspective.

Further development is happening within the "buffer area" for the Berg. The Ernie Els development just below Oliviershoek Pass, beyond Bergville. It appears to be a mini town! As Intrepid said though, there are very few things that will stop development. One hopes that the extra added volume of people will not destroy the wildness of the berg!

Lets all help maintain the values for which the Berg was proclaimed a World Heritage Site
Last Edit: 19 May 2008 22:25 by domsmooth.

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20 May 2008 22:11 #96 by intrepid
It is very true that there are many people using Sani Pass for purposes other than pleasure. And the fact that it does wash away frequently is a major consideration both for the people and the environment. In this sense, tarring it would contribute to conservation.

For us who love the mountains, Sani can be a bit of an intrusion, but for others its an important link between two countries. Not many people are bothered with, or even know about, the other road passes of the Berg, simply because very few hike there. These include Monantsa Pass near Phuthaditjhaba, Ramasteliso's Neck in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and Qacha's Neck, Ongeluksnek, Naudesnek, Barkly Pass and Otto Du Plessis Pass in the Eastern Cape. Except for the latter 3, the rest are also important border posts that serve the locals in the area, and which cut straight through the Berg.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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09 Jun 2008 14:38 #100 by intrepid
Some objections to the tarring of Sani have been raised in this article . The tour operators will probably be aversely affected as the area looses it's wildness. Concerns have also be raised by the safety hazards which may arise as a result of increased traffic and speed of vehicles, and the effects of winter conditions.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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19 Jun 2008 22:06 #101 by domsmooth
Many objections have been raised about the tarring of the pass. First off however, the section to the new border post, just beyond the Sani Pass Hotel has already almost been completed. They refer to this as Phase 1. Phase 2 is the rest of the pass, including the s bends going up the final section. While the objectors raise valid points, it must be remembered that the development has not yet been authorised. It is still going through a lengthy public participation process, and all sorts of additional studies have been suggested from various stakeholders and interested and affected parties, such as a tourism study, to ratify the need for spending this vast amount of money on the road.

While a part of the objection is the road condition aspect, it currently is in a very bad state, and runoff from a dirt road, if not well maintained can be even worse than from a well designed tar road. While I don't wish to sound like I am in favour of the project, there seems to be no way to stop this project since it has political backing, from both countries.

It will reduce the wildness of the pass, but it will also open the pass up to those who have never experienced the pass, or the mountains ever before, because they had no 4x4 and the various tour operators were perhaps priced for the overseas tourist market? In Europe passes are mostly all tarred, in possibly more demanding circumstances (environmentally) and they are successful, offering self drive opportunities to tourists. The associated tourist industry is blooming. While the tour operators may feel the pinch initially, they will diversify and find other avenues to satisfy their tourists, and their operations requirements, such is the human brain. Those who don't adapt will leave, or quit.

It will require the governments on both sides to really put their hands up in maintenance, but neither are currently doing anything about the upkeep of the road, and it is adversely affecting the wildness in its current state.

Lets all help maintain the values for which the Berg was proclaimed a World Heritage Site

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01 Aug 2008 09:25 - 01 Aug 2008 09:26 #111 by intrepid
Some 685 tourists on Sani Pass were surveyed end of 2007 / beginning of 2008. The results strongly indicate that tarring of the pass would have an adverse effect on tourism. The survery was commissioned by the Wildlife and Environmental Society of SA (Wessa). Read more here .

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last Edit: 01 Aug 2008 09:26 by intrepid.

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30 Aug 2011 12:40 #3863 by intrepid
Things have been quiet on this front. No-one really knew what as going on, and those that did were not talking.

In a recent news release on the KZN Wildlife site however, it was indicated that things are due to pick up again. Two things are on the agenda: moving the SA border post further away, and the upgrade of the road itself.

It is not clear that the road will be tarred however. It will be hardened and stabilised in some way:

The contractors, he said, were especially cognisant of the need to harden the road’s surface in a manner that prevents any further erosion to the surrounding environment. Equally, they want to construct it from natural material, material that is more congruent with its surroundings, than say concrete or asphalt.


The motivations and plans for moving the border post:

The motivation for it being re-positioned onto the border of the Park has been accepted as being entirely logical. Not only is its current site impractical and unsuitable within the Park – a World Heritage Site - causing unregulated daily traffic associated with this business, but it is also located on a flood plain.

Equally, the border post is too small with no room to expand, causing congestion at the post as tourism and commercial operations increase. Crowson, who motivated for the border relocation project back in 2003, said he really hoped that the “recent noises” turned into reality.

“Aside from the overwhelming common sense related to its move, the movement of the border post would make a Sani Pass visit so much more tourist-friendly.”

An Ezemvelo tourism centre is included in the larger border post development to enhance the tourist experience. This would offer tourists either leaving SA or coming into the country from Lesotho, information pertaining to both countries.

Further, a small auditorium would be established to market the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site, offering both a cultural and environmental perspective on the Park.

www.kznwildlife.com/index.php?/The-Long-And-Winding-Road.html

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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21 Oct 2011 20:05 #4474 by intrepid
A 40 day comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for Phase 2 of the Sani Pass Upgrade began on 17 October 2011 and will close on 25 November 2011. For all relevant information refer to:
projects.gibb.co.za/en-za/projects/sanipassphase2eia.aspx

The Department of Transport (DOT) proposes to continue with the upgrading of the existing Sani Pass Road (P318), which transects the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site (UDP WHS) near Himeville, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The proposed Phase 2 upgrade entails a complete re-grading and resurfacing of the Sani Pass from a gravel to a hardened surface, all-weather road. The upgrade will include road widening, re-alignment of sections, new bridges, stormwater control and attenuation systems, bank and slope stabilisation and road servitude rehabilitation.

In order to undertake the proposed upgrade, the KZNDOT is required to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), 1998 (Act 107 of 1998). Arcus GIBB (Pty) Ltd was appointed as the independent Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) to conduct the EIA for the Upgrading of the Sani Pass Road (DEA Ref. No.: 12/12/20/1184).

This environmental authorisation process commenced with an Environmental Scoping Phase in January 2008. Following approval of the Final Scoping Report (FSR) and associated Plan of Study for the Impact Assessment Phase by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on 01 July 2009, the Impact Assessment Phase was undertaken. This document constitutes the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report (Draft EIAR), which documents the Impact Assessment process followed, the analysis undertaken and results reached. The Draft EIAR is now available for public review and comment prior to submission of the Final EIAR to the DEA for review and a decision.


A number of detailed documents are available for review. For the interested reader the executive summary contains the salient details. A copy of it also available in the downloads section for your convenience: click here to download .

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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