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Wednesday Sep 03, 2014

Durban housing plan could threaten grassland

eThekwini housing officials are looking at a vacant piece of council-owned land next to the old SPCA site in Mayville for a housing development, but there are concerns the project could threaten endangered grassland.

The site is in Wiggins to the west of the SPCA access road and bordered by Dunbar Road, and covers an area of 9.56ha.

In a report tabled before the human settlements and infrastructure committee yesterday, unit head Beryl Mphakathi said the land could accommodate about 320 low-cost houses that would be 40 square metres each.

Mphakathi said her department had wanted to develop the land since 2011.

The challenge was that on the Geographic Information Systems the land was shown as Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (DMOSS) land. They had therefore made enquiries with the environmental planning and climate protection department.

'The department clearly indicated that the area in question was of high biodiversity concern and it was within DMOSS,' she said.

Mphakathi said the area had 'critically' endangered North Coast Grasslands, and the department indicated that they did not support the proposed development.

In a letter sent to the housing department last month, the manager for biodiversity impact assessment, Chumisa Thengwa, said the area contained remnant patches of the critically endangered grassland and every effort must be made to preserve and manage the site.

'These are the last few remaining portions within the eThekwini municipal area which are still in a primary state and therefore are of significant conservation importance,' he said.

The human settlements committee recommended an investigation to see if the land was suitable and for the two departments to work together to look at creative means to develop the area without jeopardising the environment. .

The Mercury


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