Chokka industry at risk – watchdog

Guy Rogers

IF the Thyspunt nuclear plant is approved it could force closure of the St Francis chokka industry over the 10-year construction period, opponents of the project say.

The warning by watchdog body Thyspunt Alliance – contested by Eskom – follows on the release of a report by the Fisheries Department’s scientific squid working group.

The group warns the disposal of dune sand and coastal soil from the construction site near Oyster Bay “may result in appreciable impact on squid in terms of loss of spawning habitat”. But the impact would be felt especially in the St Francis and Oyster Bay area because this was the hotspot for chokka fishing, alliance spokesman Trudie Malan said yesterday.

“The industry’s estimate is that our catches in this area will drop off by 60%. That is a direct effect [of Thyspunt] on our people.

“There are 4000 jobs in the chokka industry. If they lose 60%of their catch over the construction period it will be catastrophic.

“They will have to close down over the construction period and we know from monitoring the nuclear industry around the world that this often lasts many years longer than the 10-year estimate.” However, Eskom nuclear spokesman Tony Stott said his understanding was that the loss of squid spawning grounds would be negligible. “So I do not understand this disparity.”

Greenpeace South Africa leader Ferrial Adams, who is in Kouga to talk to affected communities and role players around the plant, argued Eskom’s pledge of huge employment from Thyspunt was false.

“If you look at their own figures in the environmental impact assessment, the initial jobs are minimal and even when they start increasing in year 11, they are predominantly skilled.” South Africa could improve significantly on this scenario by investing in renewable energy, she said. “Our research shows that 148000 jobs across a range of levels can be created by 2030 if our government invests now in renewable energy, especially solar and wind.”

Thyspunt-affected communities deserved to know this, and all the possible costs of the project, she said. “That includes the R1-trillion government has said it will be paying for the plant and how we will all be called on to help repay this debt through increasing electricity tariffs and taxes.”

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