Bo-Kaap residents rise up

City Bowl residents protested against a proposed jewellery refinery in the Bo-Kaap on Friday. Residents said they are tired of not being heard by authorities.

Residents are “gatvol” of not being heard. This was the resounding message when Bo-Kaap residents gathered last Friday to protest the proposed development of a jewellery refinery in the area.

Residents are concerned about how the refinery could impact on their health.

The period for comments for Leuven Metal’s Environmental Impact Assessment closed on Sunday August 14, with comment having been sent to the City of Cape Town for review and decision.

This follows the Leuven Metal’s Environmental Impact Assesment and Atmospheric Emissions Licen-ce processes earlier this year (“Jewellery refinery in Bo-Kaap raises health concerns”, Atlantic Sun, April 7 and (“Mooted refinery raises residents’ anger”, Atlantic Sun, June 30).

Fowzia Achmat, who stays next door to where the refinery will be if given the go-ahead, said the people were sick and tired.

“We are protesting because it seems like a decision has already been made.

“It doesn’t seem as if they listen to us. What is important is that we have to keep on (with action).”

This comes shortly after the City approved a 19-storey development for Bo-Kaap, despite disgruntled residents having handed them a petition signed by more than 1 000 people who were not in favour of the construction (“Bo-Kaap development approved”, Atlantic Sun, June 16).

Ms Achmat, who is also a member of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, said if the decision does not go the way of the residents, they would take the matter to court. She also raised concern that development was already happening at the site of the proposed refinery. ‘

“Pipes have already been moved into the building. We cannot allow this to happen – not in Bo-Kaap, not in any residential area.”

She said one of the main concerns was that there were many children in the area, with St Paul’s Primary School being just down the road from the site.

Ms Achmat added that they were in the process of speaking to schools and other organisations in the area to see what action they could take further.

“This is only the start. The people are gatvol, our community is sick and tired. They say that the City is allowing everything to happen.

“Everything that’s about money, they just allow to happen.”

Ms Achmat said they had submitted objections to the proposed refinery as individuals, community organisations as well as the civic association. “We are waiting for a response from the City.”

Nicci Martin who also lives near the site, said she was concerned because she had two children. “I have a four year and a nine year old and I’ve researched how harmful toxic emissions will be. Even if the City says its not who’s to say that they (Leuven Metals) won’t buy more equipment? Who is going to manage it? I’m concerned about my health, my children’s and our community. I can’t believe that they (the City) are not listening.”

Ms Martin, who lives across the road from the proposed refinery, said the proposed location of the refinery was less than 50 metres away from St Paul’s Primary.

“If we don’t stop this now who’s to say that they won’t put up a refinery in every residential area and ignore the residents.”

She said one of the things that frustrated her the most was that the Bo-Kaap was used on every tourist brochure and website, yet when it comes to listening to the people the City are not interested. “There are kids every where and for the Council to even imagine approving something like this is insane.

“We are lucky to have Earth Life on board but I’m not sure what the next step will be,” she said.

Muna Lakhani, of Earth Life Africa’s Cape Town branch who helped organise the protest, said they were approached by members of the local community who were concerned about the refinery. “We had a look at all the work that had been done for the Environmental Impact Assessment and for the Atmospheric Emissions Licence and we found there were some highly toxic chemicals that were going to be used in the process.”

Earth Life Africa, a volunteer-driven environmental justice organisation, was formed in 1988, with the Cape Town branch being set up a year and half later. “We stand on the side of the voiceless, poor, marginalised and those that business and industry would like to trample on.”

Mr Lakhani, the volunteer branch co-ordinator, said research revealed that the health impacts would be simply unacceptable.

“We are assisting the community in making sure that they are heard and that we will not allow this to proceed,” he said.

The affects of the chemicals which would be used on site, he said, ranged from asthma to allergic reactions, breathing and skin problems.

“This can harm everyone but it will harm disproportionally children, people who are old or ill already and pregnant women. The most vulnerable members of the community will be harmed the most.

“The answer should just be no and it is actually scary that they are even considering allowing this thing in town.”

He said the only place for a refinery area should be an industrial area with the correct pollution equipment.

Larry Eichstadt, speaking on behalf of Leuven Metals, said the Environmental Impact Assessment had been submitted to the City of Cape Town for a review and decision but did not want to comment further at this stage.

* When Atlantic Sun asked the City how far the assessment of the EIA was, how many objections they had received and what their response was to residents’ health concerns, they said they were looking into this, but could not comment further at this stage.