groundWork (Friends of the South Africa)
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance


Durban & Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 3 March 2016 – groundWork [1] and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) [2], represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights [3] on 1 March 2016 launched an appeal to the Minister of Environmental Affairs against the environmental authorisation granted to Colenso Power (Pty) Ltd for its proposed coal-fired power station near the town of Colenso [4].

The entire Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process was conducted within just a few months, in keeping with the severely-restricted timeframes in the latest EIA Regulations. groundWork and SDCEA argue that these timeframes fail to provide an adequate opportunity to assess the significant negative impacts the power station is set to have on people and their ability to live in a clean, healthy environment, or for interested and affected parties to participate meaningfully in the EIA process.

“The DEA has not applied its mind to this environmental authorisation, but instead pushed through the authorisation without adequately considering critical impacts that the power station will have on water, air quality, human health and climate change”, said Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork, which is based in Pietermaritzburg.

The appeal states that the Chief Director (as the relevant Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) decision-maker) failed, in granting the authorisation, to give adequate consideration to, for example: The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) Principles, the NEMA s24O factors, the need for and desirability of the station and whether the application for the authorisation included an assessment of all the impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the proposed coal-fired power station. This is so because the environmental impact report (EIR) for the power station:

The appeal also emphasises the impact of the current drought in KwaZulu Natal. The failure to give this any consideration in assessing the water impacts that the power station will have – particularly on the Thukela river, and the communities and other users that already depend on it is another ground on which the authorisation should be set aside.

The Chief Director cannot be said to have met the NEMA requirements or considered the impacts of the proposed power station, in circumstances where the EIR is incorrect and lacks fundamental information and assessments. In addition, the conditions and mitigation measures proposed in the authorisation are vague. They lack the necessary detail and rigour to limit harm to the environment and human health once the power station starts operating.

By granting this appeal, the DEA is setting the standard for one of the first Coal Baseload Independent Power Producers to use 198m3 of water per day – a conservative amount given by the EIR – in a country where one million people already do not have access to the minimum quota of 25 litres of potable water per day. Colenso Power is looking to the Tugela River Catchment to source its water, despite the country being in the midst of a severe drought.

If the declaration of the Highveld Air Priority Area has shown us anything, it is that coal-fired power stations have a severely detrimental effect on the health and well-being of people living in their vicinity. Yet, and despite groundWork calling upon it to do so, Colenso Power neglected to conduct a health study as part of their EIA.

According to Desmond D’sa, Coordinator of the SDCEA, “The model of development which has rested on the myth of mining as a source of wealth for all, is slowly crumbling in the public sphere. Mine workers across the country are disgruntled with indecent conditions and low wages for risky work. Those that live next to mines and power stations, but are without employment, are realising that such ‘development’ has largely been made up of empty promises.”



[1] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International
[2] The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is a non-profit organisation which aims to, inter alia, service the common interests of participating civil society organisations, provide a common structure through which different sectors of civil society can explore, strengthen and promote matters of common interest justice or relating to environmental justice and sustainable development and create a culture of environmental justice and sustainability
[3] The Centre for Environmental Rights is a non-profit company and law clinic based in Cape Town, South Africa. Its mission is to advance the realisation of environmental rights as guaranteed in the South African Constitution by providing support and legal representation to civil society organisations and communities who wish to protect their environmental rights, and by engaging in legal research, advocacy and litigation to achieve strategic change.
[4] Download the appeal document here.

Bobby Peek
groundWork, Director
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Tel (m): +27 (0) 82 464 1383

Desmond D’sa
Coordinator, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Tel (w): +27 (0) 31 461 1991
Tel (m): +27 (0) 83 982 6939