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Richards Bay Karpowership’s Environmental Authorisation Challenged in Appeal Process

23 November 2023 at 10:39 am

A Karpowership vessel. Picture: SUPPLIED
A Karpowership vessel. Picture: SUPPLIED

DATE: 23 November 2023

Environmental and social justice organisations groundWork (gW) and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) have submitted an appeal against the environmental authorisation (EA) granted to the project in October 2023.

The appeal is directed to Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy in a process which will suspend the EA until the appeal is finalised, adding yet another delay to the project which has encountered numerous obstacles over the past 3 years. The appeal is also being supported by three additional organisations with similar objectives – Natural Justice, the Green Connection and Oceans Not Oil.

The Appeal automatically suspends the EA, in terms of law. This is the second time that the Turkish owned company has attempted to obtain an EA, with a previous attempt being refused, initially by the Department, and then by the Minister on appeal. Despite being given clear directions on how to remedy the defects in it applications, Karpowership, via its appointed Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP), a company called Triplo 4, continues to make fundamental errors, omit required processes and take illegal steps as alleged by the appellants.

The appeal raises numerous points about the defectiveness of the prescribed public participation process, including lack of adequate consultation with local fishing communities, whose livelihood, cultural ways of life and food security may be impacted.  This stemmed partly from the inadequate reports submitted in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Minister herself, at an earlier stage of the process, found that consultations with affected local fishing communities were woefully inadequate and did not meet the minimum prescribed legal standard. This was not rectified in the latest attempt to obtain the EA.

There has also been lack of consultation around the controversial biodiversity offset, which has been shrouded in secrecy and brought in at a very late stage, with no consultation held to explain what this entails. This purported offset mechanism, widely reported on by media, whereby the company allegedly bought a Madaka game farm (located approximately 100km inland from Richards Bay, near Ulundi) for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. This is supposed to compensate for the biodiversity loss the project will cause to the sensitive estuarine ecosystem in and around the port, in turn devastating critical fish nurseries that stock at least 300km of coastline.

The appeal goes into detail highlighting errors in the climate change impact assessment. Despite being located in a high risk area in terms of the scientifically forecast storm surges and increased cyclone risk brought about by global warming, the assessment is practically silent on how these risks are quantified or to be managed. Other reports such as the avifauna report, noise report and marine estuary and socio-economic impact reports are also meticulously challenged in the appeal.

The appellants argue that the Karpowership is a flawed and expensive approach to addressing the electricity crisis, and has the potential to lock the country in to an exorbitant contract for many years to come. Should the appeal be dismissed, the appellants would be able to approach the High Court in a review application.


“How the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment saw fit to approve such a grossly defective application is a mystery and raises many questions. Thankfully our environmental laws and regulations are clear, and we have no doubt that if this has to go to court one day, the injustice of what happened here will be clear for all to see” Yegeshni Moodley, Climate and Energy Justice Senior Campaign Manage groundWork.

 “The IPCC reports are unequivocal that no new oil and gas production projects can be sanctioned – the Richards Bay area is forecast to start seeing increasing tropical cyclone risk and well and intensifying storm surges, which are already battering our coastline. A climate change impact assessment which fails to address these risks is significantly flawed and unprofessional. The fact that the project comprises three ships generating electricity from highly flammable gas makes it all the more defective” Janet Solomon, spokesperson for Oceans Not Oil.

“This company and their EAP concluded that because fishing is not permitted in the port itself, that there are no needs to undertake a wider consultation with the fishing communities in the region. This despite the fact that it is known that the noise and warm water discharge may disrupt fish nurseries and impact sea mammals and vegetation, putting the entire local marine food chain and those whose livelihoods depend on it, at risk” Neville van Rooy, Green Connection outreach coordinator.

“Karpowerships represent a step backwards in our commitments towards a lower carbon future and meeting our climate goals. Their approach will not solve the country’s electricity crisis, makes no economic sense, and the operations place fishing dependent communities at risk.  We hope that the Minister will recognise these risks, and overturn the decision to grant environmental authorisation for the Richards Bay project” Melissa Groenink-Groves, Defending Rights Programme Manager for Natural Justice. 


See other court documents in this matter, challenging the numerous licences applied for by Karpowership SA



Green Connection: Neville van Rooy: +27 664796411 / Liz McDaid: 082 731 5643
Centre for Environmental Rights: Gabriella Knottgknott[@]