Drakensberg Cable Car

24 Oct 2012 21:56 #55523 by Serious tribe
Serious tribe replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
@mnt

I think Intrepids point - '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' should be part of the reasons, perhaps even one of the more important reasons on the list.

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25 Oct 2012 12:12 #55528 by tiska
tiska replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Latest version below - I have removed a bit in the beginning on what we do - perhaps some were put off supporting the letter by that? If you want to add your name, either reply saying so, or else just hit the 'thank-you'. The list is growing.

ST, does point 6 cover the issue you raised?

"
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 hikers 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.

"
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25 Oct 2012 18:35 - 25 Oct 2012 18:37 #55530 by Serious tribe
Serious tribe replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
'The process of formally declaring Mnweni a conservation area has already begun and this status will require that any present and future planning and development follow the correct environmental and social impact assessments.

I also think we should allow this a 'monthly marinade' so that Intrepid and others have the time to make their contribution as it seems likely that this might be launched under the auspices of the VE site
Last Edit: 25 Oct 2012 18:37 by Serious tribe.
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26 Oct 2012 07:51 #55532 by tiska
tiska replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Thanks for the input ST. I'm handing the baton over to you and Intrep now. Can you guys take it forward from here?

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30 Oct 2012 05:28 #55551 by intrepid
intrepid replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Thanks for driving this mnt_tiska. Let's give this a week or two as ST suggested so it can marinade a bit. I have one or two individuals in mind that I want to bounce this off too. In the meanwhile we can also look at who to submit this too: IOL, The Witness, Sunday Times- any more?

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

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08 Nov 2012 19:52 #55589 by McTioo
McTioo replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
As a berg lover I have found this all very interesting.

I am not sure whether I support it or not yet. One thing that really bugs me when hiking at Monks Cowl is the helicopters that constantly buzz overhead. Maybe a cable car would bring an end to those dreadful annoyances.

With regards to the weather issues- they may be very real but are there not cable cars in Europe or Asia that operate in similar conditions?

I see in this Sunday's paper that government has appointed consultants to conduct another feasibility - surely we only have to become concerned if they find it feasible?

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08 Nov 2012 20:16 - 10 Nov 2012 11:18 #55590 by tiska
tiska replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Welcome to the forum McTioo

McTioo wrote:
I am not sure whether I support it or not yet. One thing that really bugs me when hiking at Monks Cowl is the helicopters that constantly buzz overhead. Maybe a cable car would bring an end to those dreadful annoyances.

The choppers are a blight. But if business were to run thin, the choppers would stay on the ground or else go elsewhere. When the cable car is built and business runs thin, where does it go? Unfortunately the eye-sore will bang in the wind for decades. Theres an additional issue that I don't understand. If there is a cable car in the Mnweni Area, would that really stop the Cathedral Peak or Monks Cowl chopper? I can imagine clients wanting a ride back inthe chopper from the top cable way station instead of freaking themselves out by having to drive through the Mweni area, where they know they are not welcome and where, given time, they will be hijacked and left in the Little Tugela for their trouble. So I would expect the choppers would actually increase given the cable way.

McTioo wrote: With regards to the weather issues- they may be very real but are there not cable cars in Europe or Asia that operate in similar conditions?

There are plenty of cable cars in the Alps and in Asia. In the Alps the lightning strikes are not nearly as frequent. Based on CSIR data; "The high veld region of South Africa and Lesotho have amongst the highest lightning strikes per square km per annum in the world". Their map shows an even higher frequency in the Drakensberg. See next posting for lightning frequency strikes from satellite derived data. Second, the population base in Europe and Asia is orders of magnitude higher than the Berg. Cable cars in Europe and Asia can make hay when the sunshines. In the Berg, a much lower client base is available.
The Drakensberg escarpment is very misty in summer. It lies close to the extremely warm (sea surface temperatures near 24 degrees C) South West Indian Ocean. Integrated sea breeze and plain to mountain winds transport the moisture from the ocean to the 3000m escarpment. With very high dew points, condensation level is usually about 2000m in summer or lower during the day, when the moisture transport is maximum. In the Alps, distant from warm subtropical oceans, the lower dew points keep the condensation level much higher up. In areas with high humidity, such as Hong Kong, the topography e.g. Victoria Peak, is much lower (summit 550m)than the Berg (3000m+), although when I was there, it was in the mist despite being lower.

If numerous days per year in the Berg are knocked out by the weather, the operation becomes marginal - if it is profitable to start with.

McTioo wrote: I see in this Sunday's paper that government has appointed consultants to conduct another feasibility - surely we only have to become concerned if they find it feasible?

This depends on the expertise and knowledge of the consultants. And who the government has appointed. I'm not sure that merit is generally behind government appointments. In any case I have known some consultant's reports to be based on very little actual expert knowledge of an area. The consultancy may well have an economic modeller, an environmental employee who will argue for the cable stations to be painted basalt black, but not anyone who actually has been to the region on multiple visits in multiple seasons. As pointed out earlier, there is little data to base a study on - hence the importance of the views on the forum here. The people contributing are people that know a thing or two about the Berg.
Here is one lightning strike map. Eskom has another.
www.wattronics.co.za/lightning_belt_information.php
Last Edit: 10 Nov 2012 11:18 by tiska. Reason: added some info on the summer mist

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09 Nov 2012 08:27 - 11 Nov 2012 19:09 #55595 by tiska
tiska replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Here are three maps of lightning strike frequency - one over Europe and one over southern Africa and a global map. The data for the two regional maps comes from instruments flown on board the Tropical Rainfall Monitoring Mission. The global map is combined data from the Optical Transient Detector data from the Lightning Imaging Sensor - this one shows the strike rate over Europe as much lower. It has the file name including 'combined' and is global in extent.








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Last Edit: 11 Nov 2012 19:09 by intrepid.

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09 Nov 2012 08:33 #55596 by tiska
tiska replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
Graham Muller Associates in Durban list the Drakensberg Cable way as one of their recent projects. Does anyone know if Graham Muller are doing the financial modelling for the latest study? My guess is yes.
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11 Nov 2012 07:20 #55613 by Serious tribe
Serious tribe replied to: Drakensberg Cable Car
where can i find a higher res image of the world lightning strike image?

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