28 January 2013

Namibia: Concern Over Power Lines Running Through Parks

THE impact of the construction of a power line from Walmund substation to Walvis Bay through the Dorob National Park has become a concern to environmentalists.

This is despite the fact that a public consultation process was followed as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the construction of the power line.

The surge in industrial development in the Erongo Region has led to an escalation in the demand for electricity, resulting in the region's transmission network being subjected to increased pressure.

This demand has been compounded by a number of new large-scale projects being undertaken in the region, such as the extension of the harbour, the coal-fired power station at Arandis and the Husab uranium mine. All these have forced NamPower to consider strengthening the West Coast network to provide future load growth.

In order to achieve this, the power utility is constructing two new 132kV transmission lines from the Walvis Bay substation to the Kuiseb substation and an additional 220kV transmission line between the Kuiseb substation and the Walmund substation. Walmund is about 20 kilometres from the coast and halfway between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. This new line will be about 45 kilometres long.

In addition to servicing a wider area, this will also connect existing substations in the national grid, thereby expanding the grid and avoiding redundancy of lines.

The problem is, this line has to be constructed inside the Dorob National Park and adjacent Namib-Naukluft Park. The project will include the erection of pylons and the construction of a service road.

"There were public meetings and concerns about land degradation were raised with promises to rehabilitate, but looking at it actually happening is frightening - and that in this park," a resident said.

Another resident complained that people are "being nailed" for using small existing paths in the Dorob Park to ride quad-bikes, while the "big guys with the big excavations get away with the big destruction".

A popular lookout point, which is also a picnic spot that overlooks the Swakop River, has been transformed into a construction site where a pylon will be erected.

"The lookout point is spoiled with this thing that will be here. The peace will also be spoiled with the background humming of electricity through the lines above," a resident remarked.

"They did say this all would be rehabilitated, but I wonder how. This is big damage," another resident said.

In its EIA conclusion, NamPower said it would be able to reduce most of the unwanted impacts of this project to "acceptable levels". The expected harm to the gravel plains is unavoidable though.

"Should the contractor succeed in limiting the extent of the service road and pylon sites, the impact will not result in a situation where NamPower cannot continue with the project," the report stated.

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