20 May 2005

Dismay at state of world heritage site in South Africa

A Boksburg resident and Gauteng cave expert has accused Blue IQ, the investment arm of the Gauteng provincial government, of the poor management of a World Heritage site.

Fourie's Cave is a well-known palaeo-anthropological site on Bolt's Farm near the Sterkfontein Caves.

"This is how we treat our World Heritage site," said Mike Buchanan after the degradation of the environment came to light.

Refuse is piled up at the entrance to the cave, which he says "is unacceptable and appalling, creating an unhealthy environment for residents and the cave environment".

Buchanan pointed out that Blue IQ was responsible for the management of the area. "The whole thing would appear to have no capacity. In-house decision-making and prioritising would appear to be questionable."

He said Blue IQ was given the power to make decisions around this vital geology, termed karst (dolomite or limestone) - a water-containing substance which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

He said the University of the Witwatersrand and the Gauteng department of agriculture, Conservation and Environment (GDACE) had reported the poor state of the site as far back as November last year.

The problem was also reported to the Mogale City Parks department and Blue IQ. But nothing had been done about it, and the situation was worsening.

He said meetings were convened and there was talking, but nothing concrete was forthcoming. "I got so desperate, I volunteered to help," he said.

According to Buchanan, there is legislation in place to protect these sites, but there is no capacity to enforce the legislation, which he says is a cause for grave concern.

Dr Trish Hanekom, the chief executive of Blue IQ, said she was made aware of the problem at the site only 10 days ago.

Hanekom said measures had been put in place to prevent this type of thing from happening.

She said she appreciated that there were people out there who were aware and reported environmental degradation.

A letter addressed to the Mogale City Parks Department, dated February 7, 2005, which was copied to Hanekom and the GDACE, raises concerns over the state of the area west of Bolt's Farm.

The letter states that the environment in the area is in an "appalling state".

It adds that one of the businesses in the area is polluting the groundwater with tar waste. Tar is also regularly burnt from the same "factory environment" for hours at a time.

Much refuse has been "hidden" in the caves and sinkholes.

Bolt's Farm and the surrounding area had an astounding subterranean wealth of rare flora and fauna which was worth protecting along with the ancient bones, Buchanan said.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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