Drakensberg Cable Car

23 Oct 2012 15:36 - 23 Oct 2012 16:56 #55501 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
If anyone is interested, see my letter in the Witness today...
Last edit: 23 Oct 2012 16:56 by intrepid.

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23 Oct 2012 21:01 #55506 by domsmooth
Replied by domsmooth on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
Hi all.I have been watching the sentiment in this thread with interest, as we thought that we had won previous rounds of this issue some years back, and were quite surprised when it was mentioned again at Indaba, and then had a massive push from some additional economists recently. Still waiting to see it, but we got wind of some additional reports being compiled.

@Thomas. From my perspective you are welcome to look at any naked truth. The Berg offers more than a couple of hikes to a niche crowd, who potentially rely on Shell oil from Nigeria, or gas from America, and technology which use child labour in sweat shops throughout the East. Many of us buy these products with the knowledge that these things are happening, but a little known fact is that the Berg also produces 25% of the countries water. Now, I am pretty sure you are thinking to yourself that a "short span" of 23 km of cable and steel supports in the ground and a massive structure at the top station will not likely impact on water supply, but where does it all end? The Tugela catchment is potentially the most important on the South African side, and there are potential plans to frack for gas all around, and including this area. I ask you, realistically, is gas a greener energy option than coal, or oil? If it is going to do the same to 25% of the country's water supply, I would need to answer "NO!". Apart from just water, the UDP WHS was awarded its status due to not only the Heritage value of the paintings throughout the sandstone cave belt, but also because of its natural heritage value. It supports innumerable Drakensberg endemics, some of which the red listing status has not yet been established, because there is not enough information on these species. The ecology of the area is also hung in a very fine balance. The soils there are very loose/friable. Anyone who has walked across the escarpment knows that the soil crunches down and leaves a fairly large indent of your footprint. This is due to the wetness, transplacing the finer soil particles. Many of the grasses and indigenous flowers which are only found in these montane areas are specifically adapted to these conditions. Again, you may be asking what difference the cable car will have to this? A fine question. I will answer it this way. Sani Pass is on one end of the Berg, and Witsieshoek at the other. Adding a 3rd in between the 2 may disrupt the ecological balance and effectively cut across this escarpment corridor, fragmenting the larger, intact center matrix, which is frequented currently by only herders, some dagga traffickers and every now and again, a data munching, technocrat - who really cares about being able to show the next generation what an absolutely phenomenal place the Berg is, and explain to them that they upheld their constitutional right to keep intact a healthy living environment for the generations to come by pointing out the error in other data munching, technocrats who do not care about their kids, but only want to gain further sway to pull off another equally embarrassing circus stunt and get filthy rich in the process.

The bottom line for me, is that this is more about a few people benefiting with no long term viability, no other alternatives being investigated, and impinging on the rights of whole communities, and much of the rest of the populus of the country.

Intrepid's points about pursuing with the Stewardship option, tying the land into the World Heritage Site, and looking after it in perpetuity to aid us when this arid country runs out of water, and giving back to the community at large, throughout the country, is an option that cannot and should not be overlooked.

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

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24 Oct 2012 08:18 - 24 Oct 2012 09:19 #55510 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
Right - so Ghaz has succeeded with the first salvo in the Witness.

There does seem to be some support for a joint effort here, though not one that speaks for the forum itself. I have built on the previous drafts, esp STs, with the suggestion below. If there are things you don't like or want added, then by all means, though a joint effort is always going to be written a little differently from a solo effort, so word-smithing could go on forever.

If you want to sign up, can I suggest that you hit the 'thank-you' button? Where do we send it? Maybe the Sunday papers?

"
KZN has a long track record in poorly scoped, failed tourist development. We are convinced the proposed cable car in the Mnweni Area of the Drakensberg is going to add another white elephant to the list. There are several reasons for this – notably the extent to which enthusiasm for the project exceeds basic knowledge about this part of the Drakensberg. We are a group of scientists, climatologists, engineers and xxxx, some of whom have written landmark books on the Drakensberg and who cumulatively have been hiking in the Drakensberg for many tens of years. We know the area inside out.
The reasons that the proposed cable car will become a white elephant are:
1) The low number of days that the cable car can be expected to operate or be supported by tourists. In the summer months, mist and cloud typically envelopes the escarpment by mid morning and stays for the rest of the day. The view from the escarpment itself is non-existent on these days. In winter, the strongest winds anywhere in southern Africa which are part of the circumpolar westerlies, blow over the escarpment. Once the night time surface temperature inversion is removed by the morning sun, the fierce wind mixes down to the surface to produce winds which are often in excess of 100 km/hr - well beyond the operating threshold of cable ways. Data to demonstrate this wind is non-existent on the escarpment itself as there are no met stations. However hikers experience this wind routinely. One vital clue to the strong winds however, is the proposed wind farms in the highlands of Lesotho.
2) The safety of the cable car operation and its clientele is compromised by a) the number of lightning strikes on the escarpment in summer, >100 days per year and essentially most summer afternoons. b) the extent of cross-border smuggling in the region which itself is a disputed border. Many tons of narcotics are trafficked through the region, something which only the hikers currently see first-hand.
3) The escarpment top is a bleak area. It is a far cry from the lush valleys and the fast flowing rivers of the lower Berg. It is extremely cold, damp and wind -swept with a vegetation type that resembles semi-desert in large areas of the region concerned. It just won't catch on as a destination.
4) The local community do not want the project - “The cableway will destroy our community and our wilderness (ihlane),” said Mkwazeni Hlongwane, who detailed the various cultural and community activities such as medicinal plant harvesting that would be adversely affected.
“There has been no consultation with the community; we are not happy about the process,” he said. “One thousand people survive here because of what the mountains give us. The cableway will employ 100, but what about the other 900?”
Politicians cannot maintain prestige projects on their own. Such projects need to have a sound operational basis and a credible level of support. This cannot be true for the proposed cable car project. Are we not now in a time, hard-won, when South Africa needs to listen to its people?
"
Last edit: 24 Oct 2012 09:19 by tiska.
The following user(s) said Thank You: intrepid, Stijn, mykitchin, jamcligeo, plouw, ghaznavid

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24 Oct 2012 08:54 #55512 by plouw
Replied by plouw on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
To the Sunday newspapers, with a photo of the bleak (winter) view into Lesotho. And some hardcore, scary looking Dagga smugglers perhaps, to scare off people.

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24 Oct 2012 09:01 #55513 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
I support the above idea. Am a bit hard-pressed for time over the next week or so to think about polishing up wording though. I do believe that the subsequent points should be mentioned in such a letter, ie:
- That the cable car was looked at fairly extensively some time ago by the Federation of Drakensberg User Groups and found to be economically infeasible.
- That a process of setting aside the upper area for formal conservation has already begun and this status will be a major consideration, and probably a blocker, for any new structures being erected.
- We do still need to look and stress other viable alternatives. At the end of the day the big decisions are still based on laws and money, not not so much on sentiment, environmental impact, objection from the public, or long-term considerations. The more we can demonstrate the bottom line of the cable car is not worth it compared to other, better alternatives, the more weightier our objection will be.

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

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24 Oct 2012 12:32 #55514 by BobbyStanton
Replied by BobbyStanton on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
If you want to know what the Mweni will look like in five years time (if this project goes ahead), superimpose the abandoned ski-lifts and buildings at Tiffendell on to that area, but enlarge the size of the structures a bit more.





When it becomes economically unviable and is abandoned, and the structures start to decay and collapse, that's when the environmental disaster really hits home.

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24 Oct 2012 12:59 - 24 Oct 2012 15:24 #55515 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
Thanks to intrepid, Stijn, jamcligeo, plouw who have already signed up.
This version builds on earlier drafts, notably ST's, and also adds Intrepids comments. If you want to add your name either say so in reply, or if pushed for time, click the 'thank-you' which will be taken as an indication that you sign up to the letter. You can use a nom de plume (i.e. not your real name: e.g. Angry from Bergville) as long as you provide your real name. As I understand it, the press won't print your real name. As mentioned earlier, the tactic here is to argue that the cable car is not a sound economic investment - which risks it becoming an abandoned or half built eye-sore if plans do go ahead.

"
KZN has a long track record in poorly scoped, failed tourist development. We are convinced the proposed cable car in the Mnweni Area of the Drakensberg is going to add another white elephant to the list. There are several reasons for this – notably the lack of basic knowledge about this part of the Drakensberg. We are a group of scientists, climatologists, engineers and xxxx, some of whom have written landmark books on the Drakensberg and who cumulatively have been hiking in the Drakensberg for many tens of years. We know the area inside out.

The reasons that the proposed cable car will become a white elephant are:
1) The low number of days that the cable car can be expected to operate or be supported by tourists and the major economic loss that will result. In the summer months, mist and cloud typically envelopes the escarpment by mid morning and stays for the rest of the day. The view from the escarpment itself is non-existent on these days. In winter, the strongest winds anywhere in southern Africa which are part of the circumpolar westerlies, blow over the escarpment. Once the night time surface temperature inversion is removed by the morning sun, the fierce wind mixes down to the surface to produce gusts which are often in excess of 100 km/hr - well beyond the operating threshold of cable ways. Hikers experience this wind routinely as does data gathered by climate scientists from this remote region. One vital clue to the strong winds however, is the proposed wind farms in the highlands of Lesotho.
2) The safety of the cable car operation and its clientele is compromised by a) the number of lightning strikes on the escarpment in summer, multiple strikes on >100 days per year and essentially most summer afternoons. b) the extent of cross-border smuggling in the region which itself is a disputed border. Many tons of narcotics are trafficked through the region, something which only the hikers currently see first-hand.
3) The escarpment top is a bleak area. It is a far cry from the lush valleys and the fast flowing rivers of the lower Berg. It is extremely cold, damp and wind-swept with a vegetation type that resembles semi-desert in large areas of the region concerned. It just won't catch on as a destination.
4) The local community do not want the project - “The cableway will destroy our community and our wilderness (ihlane),” said Mkwazeni Hlongwane, who detailed the various cultural and community activities such as medicinal plant harvesting that would be adversely affected.
“There has been no consultation with the community; we are not happy about the process,” he said. “One thousand people survive here because of what the mountains give us. The cableway will employ 100, but what about the other 900?”
5) The cable car proposal was extensively evaluated a few years ago by the Federation of Drakensberg User Groups and found to be economically unfeasible.
6) The process of formally declaring Mnweni a conservation area has already begun and this status will be a major and expensive, if not unsurmountable obstacle for any new structures being planned.
7) Smart, not risky investment is needed in KZN. It should start by consolidating the Durban Port zone which is a mess of fragmented development between the Point and the Embankment. It should learn from the Waterfront in Cape Town and wisely stay clear of this risky area of the Drakensberg.

"
Last edit: 24 Oct 2012 15:24 by tiska.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Smurfatefrog

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24 Oct 2012 15:00 #55516 by stefangrab
Replied by stefangrab on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
I have been working in the Drakensberg for over 20 years now on climate and environmental related research projects. We have wind data for the escarpment region and I can assure you all that a cable car would not be viable as operating hours would be rather limited during periods of high winds...in fact these can last for days on end. It would not only be an environmental disaster but an economic disaster and potential hazard. It could also result in folks making their way up during calm conditions and then owing to sudden weather changes, these folks may then not be able to use the cable car to get back down...possibly for a day...possibly for several days! So any such venture would require a good road and hotel infrastructure at the summit as well. This then also requires sewerage, drainage, electricity etc infrastructure and so the impact assessment required for this would need to be multi-faceted. The knock-on environmental impacts of a cable car may thus be 10's of km, considering cabling, roads etc.

Should the initiative go ahead then I anticipate doing some research on 'disater risk', as it will be just this!

Stefan Grab
Professor in Climate Science, Wits University

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24 Oct 2012 15:23 #55517 by tiska
Replied by tiska on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
Hi Stefan,
I've modified the section in the letter about the wind data. Would you be happy to sign up to it? I hope so!

Richard Wash

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24 Oct 2012 16:21 #55518 by stefangrab
Replied by stefangrab on topic Drakensberg Cable Car
Sure Richard, I am happy to assist where I can in this matter. Please feel free to contact me on:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
OR
0828288673
Regards
Stefan

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