- On Tuesday, energy regulator NERSA licensed Karpowerships for gas energy generation.
- The controversial Karpowership project was refused environmental authorisation in June.
- Small-scale fishers in Saldanha Bay, Coega and Richards Bay fear the power ships will destroy their livelihoods.
Fishing communities in Saldanha Bay and Gqeberha are worried
that newly-approved gas powerships will drive away or even kill the fish their
livelihoods depend upon.
“What will happen if we can’t fish? Who is going to put
food on the table? How will our fishermen get an income?” asked Carmelita
Mostert, a fisher from Saldanha Bay.
On Tuesday, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa
(NERSA) approved the licence for gas energy generation in Saldanha Bay, Coega
and Richards Bay by Karpowership SA.
Environmental organisation Green Connection says these
floating gas power plants will have a devastating impact on communities that
depend on small-scale fishing.
Mostert lives in Saldanha Bay and owns two fishing boats.
Her father was also a fisher. “I am dependent on the sea. I have no other
income than the ocean,” she said.
She was one of half a dozen small-scale fishing
representatives who spoke during the Oceans Tribunal on Wednesday in Cape Town,
discussing the impact of the oil and gas industry on their communities.
Vuyiseka Mani, from Qqeberha, said that while the energy
projects promised job opportunities, it would be at the expense of fishing
Civil society organisations have criticised NERSA for
approving the licences in spite of being refused
environmental authorisation by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries,
and the Environment in June.
In April, writing in the Daily Maverick, Tony Carnie explained:
“[P]owerships, much like giant kettles, use large volumes of seawater to
cool down the heat from onboard gas and steam turbines, thereafter discharging
the heated wastewater back into the sea.” The raised water temperatures “will
kill off a variety of marine life in the immediate vicinity of the powerships
and possibly change underwater oxygen levels and disrupt the wider marine
ecology around Richards Bay, Saldanha and Ngqura harbours.”
Michelle Koyama, attorney at the Centre for Environmental
Rights (CER), said the approval without environmental authorisation was “premature”.
However, NERSA approval only allows for the generation of
electricity by Karpowership SA, not the building of infrastructure.
“Until Environmental Authorisation is granted,
Karpowership cannot operate or commence with any construction,” said
Koyama said the power ships will emit methane, a potent
greenhouse gas. The noise generated by the ships had also not been adequately
addressed, especially since this could drive away marine animal populations.
The CER, on behalf of environmental group groundWork,
submitted objections to NERSA in August. The CER said the power ships only have
a lifespan of about 20 years, making them unnecessarily costly. In addition, it
objected to the greenhouse gas emissions and that the project had not received
NERSA spokesperson Charles Hlebela said that environmental
authorisations, the mitigation of pollution, and the impact on small-scale
fishers, do not fall under its jurisdiction.