Appeal lodged against gigantic mausoleum Print E-mail
News - Aktueel
Monday, 21 March 2011 19:34
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Rietfontein residents could soon be living next to 24 000 graves upstream from one of Pretoria’s major water sources. A mausoleum project that makes provision for more than half of a Loftus Versveld audience seems to be steaming ahead in spite of urgent appeals from residents and environmental consultants.

Bokamoso Environmental Consultants is busy with a High Court application against the mausoleum on behalf of affected property owners. The consultants’ initial appeal, just after the approval of the mausoleum project last year, was rejected.

In The Bronberger’s June 2010 edition we reported that permission has been granted to build an 8 ha mausoleum on portion 39 of the farm Rietfontein 375 JR.

Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) gave environmental authorisation for the mausoleum project on 12 April last year. Permission has been granted for the following: a chapel, large mausoleums of more than 12 m², small to medium mausoleums of 6-12 m², crypts, remembrance parks, an administration building, toilet facilities, small access roads and a maintenance shed.

The company that applied for authorisation to establish a mausoleum (cemetery) is Basfour 3512 (Pty) Ltd. Golder Associates was appointed to undertake the basic environmental assessment process and Zitholele Consulting conducted the public participation process.

Aerial view of the Rietvlei dam

According to residents the public participation process was insufficient because the comments received on the project were omitted from the final report and no feedback was provided on the comments.

They said that certain specialist studies were absent, that issues of concern were not sufficiently addressed and that the mausoleum will cause irreversible harm to the public and the environment.

The GDARD letter of authorisation states that the department is satisfied that “no sensitive environmental features such as rivers, wetlands and drainage lines were noted or identified during the site inspection”. However, the Rietvlei dam is situated to the west of the mausoleum site and consultants found that groundwater flows in a westerly direction directly to the dam. The site falls within the secondary catchments of the Rietvlei dam.

In this area groundwater accumulates in large subterranean dolomite chambers and is annually supplemented by rainwater, resulting in dolomite springs which feed the dam.

The Rietvlei Dam is surrounded by the Rietvlei Nature Reserve. Residents are concerned that decomposing fluids and gases will lead to pollution of the soil and groundwater that feeds the Rietvlei dam, which daily supplies approximately 10 million liters of Pretoria’s drinking water.

Most of the residents in the area reside on farm portions and agricultural holdings, which are solely dependent on groundwater sources for drinking water. They fear that the correct foundations, sealing and lining of coffins and absorbent material might not be used which will result in the pollution of groundwater.

Bokamoso’s appeal included references to a variety of studies done on decomposing bodies in below or above-ground cemeteries. One of the reports states that cemeteries pose a pollution threat far exceeding original perceptions. Micro biological pollutants, including bacteria, viruses and parasites, remain active within the water table at much greater distances from their source than previously speculated.

According to Lizelle Gregory from Bokamoso the Mausoleum project’s change in land use is not in place yet and there will soon be a hearing for the rezoning application. The first hearing was postponed due to a lack of quorum.

Lizelle said that she will keep residents up to date with the hearing date and the address where it will be held. For more information, contact Bokamoso at 012-346-3810.

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