Voice of the Cape

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Belhar residents vow to protect sand dunes

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By Shakirah Thebus

Sand remains an invaluable resource with the demand for it within the manufacturing industry ever increasing due to its availability as well as affordability. Sand mining is the process of extracting sand from open pits, beaches, dunes and oceans and the sand is then used to produce various materials used for construction work.

Sand-mining company Maccsand have applied to the Department of Mineral Resources for a sand mining permit which will see the last two dunes in the northern suburbs of Belhar excavated. A Belhar family is opposed to the two-year project and have vowed to fight it from getting the go-ahead.

“This is already a built-up residential area and with the dangers of sand mining we are very concerned about our community. We also want to preserve our dunes because it’s the last sand dunes on this side of the northern suburbs,” said Mogamat Taliep, a resident of extension 4 in Belhar.

Cassiem Noordien, chairperson of the Belhar Ratepayers Association said there remains abundant life and vibrant fauna and flora in the area where the proposed mining is expected to take place. Noordien believes the area could be used as a recreational space for the community.

“We’d like to area to be turned into a park, where we can visit on a Sunday and have a braai and the kids can do mountain bike riding there. Authorities can turn it into a park for our kids and leave it there for a future generation.”

Cassiem Noordien

Noordien claims that the company is expected to make huge profits from the project and said very little has been discussed on how the community would be benefiting from it.

“They are going to make R50 million from the project, so there’s no way they’re going to give this up. From a community point of view, we’re going to fight this.”

Shireen Noordien Ismail, a Belhar resident herself explained that one of her personal concerns is how sand mining would affect the health of residents, as her son suffers from life-threatening asthma.

“For us, it’s already a daily struggle to keep him healthy. I cannot imagine what sand mining would do to his quality of life.”

“Where the dune is located, we have several schools in that area and it is surrounded by three sports fields which is used every week. If you read the draft basic assessment report, they’re talking about having at a minimum 20 trucks per hour passing through there, collecting sand.

Shireen Noordien-Ismail and Cassiem Noordien stand on a lookout point on the dunes

“Our community love the dunes. They take their kids up there for a walk. It’s beautiful. Athletes use it for training purposes, so we want to preserve the dunes.”

“The thing about sand is once it’s gone, it’s gone, especially a dune.”

Sussana Coleman, an activist and campaigner of the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) has been fighting a similar battling where glass manufacturing company Consul intends to mine in the mostly farmland area, affecting several households depending on the land. Coleman shared that an extensive portion of sand dune mining had already taken place in the PHA.

“If you are in a residential area, you’re going to have a big problem with dust, with noise and you’re going to have a lot of problems with traffic. Those trucks, they also destroy the roads because they’re very heavy, they’re carrying out thousands of tons of sand on a daily basis.

Belhar sand dunes

“Sand dunes can play a role in terms of flood mitigation because sand dunes perform the role of a sponge, so they hold water. When there’s very heavy rain, there’s a great deal of water that’s held within that sand dune. Now, if you take that sand dune away, it might expose that area to much more flooding because you don’t have that sponge effect to mop up the water.”

The impact of sand mining could have lasting effects for the area, where rehabilitation of the area, once mining is complete, is most often slim.

VOC News reached out to Maccsand for comment but attempts to conduct an interview was unsuccessful.

 


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