Road extension bad news for toads

There are fears the City of Cape Town’s plans to extend Houmoed Avenue to ease traffic congestion will create both an environmental disaster and a recipe for further civil unrest.

The extension, according to the City, will make it easier for emergency services to reach Masiphumelele and improve traffic flow.

But Alison Faraday, from Toad Nuts, said it would push protected western leopard toads in the area to extinction and threaten other wildlife. And community activist Rosemary Millbank says the authorities have failed to consult Masiphumelele residents about the plan and ultimately this could lead to further anger and frustration.

The road extension, Ms Faraday said, would threaten two ponds – used by the toads for breeding -in the greenbelt next to Milkwood Park.

The first pond, at the end of Oak Way, was a vibrant oasis not only for toads, but also for water birds, otters and mongooses.

“This pond is directly in the path of the proposed Houmoed Avenue extension,” she said.

The City has proposed cutting through the edge of the pond for the road reserve.

The second pond is in front of the Noordhoek Chalets and would also be threatened.

“Toad Nuts believes that if the Houmoed Avenue extension goes through the proposed location, it will be an environmental disaster and will cause the extinction of toads in this area,” Ms Faraday said.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said the road extension could not happen without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and independent wetland experts would assess potential impacts and find ways to limit them, for example by rehabilitating other nearby degraded wetlands to offset the loss of habitat.

But Ms Faraday is unconvinced. She said the western leopard toad had once existed from Stanford to Melkbosstrand, but rampant developmentalongdesirable coastal areas had destroyed much of its habitat. Toad season is from end of July through to the end of September. The toads cross long distances to the ponds and many end up as roadkill – indeed the roads have played a major role in the sharp decline in toad populations.

Toad Nuts has been in the south peninsula since 2008 helping to stop the slaughter on the roads.

“If motorists do see a toad on the road, and it’s safe to do so, they should move the toad off the road in the direction it is facing,” said Ms Faraday.

She said Noordhoek regularly recorded the highest number of toads during the winter migration, mostly along Silvermine Road and Noordhoek Main Road, as well as adjacent roads.

During the 2017 breeding season, Toad Nuts recorded 732 toads (alive and dead) both on roads and inside the barrier and bucket system for Noordhoek.

In Sun Valley, 16 toads were found this season, down from 157 in 2012 and there were 30 recorded for Fish Hoek, down from 281 in 2015. Milkwood Park/Sunnydale had 43 toads this year, although 10 of them were dead.

Ms Faraday said the toad was an endangered species and needed appropriate protection to prevent extinction.

Ms Millbank said she was concerned about the toads and other wildlife, but her main worry was the people of Masiphumelele.

They would be most affected by the road, she said, but they had not been consulted or informed about it.

“The propaganda spread in a pamphlet by the City of Cape Town has caused uncertainty and anger because there was no mention of what will happen to those living in the wetlands area where the road is planned.

“The City must respect the community of Masiphumelele and consult with them immediately regarding these plans.”

Last month, Mr Herron said the City would need permission from the provincial and national government to build the road, including environmental authorisation from Province and a water use licence from the national Department of Water and Sanitation because of the wetlands inside the road reserve.

The extension has two phases. Phase one is the upgrading of Houmoed Avenue from the Storage Land behind Longbeach Mall to Lekkerwater Road. Phase two is the extension of Lekkerwater Road to the existing Houmoed Avenue near Fish Eagle Park.

The second section will improve access to Phase 4 of the Masiphumelele housing project.

Mr Herron said there had been numerous public participation activities for phase one of the project and the pre-application, basic assessment report (BAR) had gone out for public comment.

All comments received would be responded to and included in the final report.

For phase two, specialists were finalising their assessments to inform the compilation of a draft BAR.

Several public participation activities had also taken place to date and Mr Herron said it was anticipated that the application to Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning would also be submitted towards the end of October.

The time-frames for the remainder of steps for phase two (including the water use licence application) would then be aligned with that of phase one.

Mr Herron said the new road between Masiphumelele and the vlei, if approved, would create new development opportunities along the northern side of Masiphumelele and prevent further encroachment into the vlei.

Houmoed Avenue, once completed, he said, would be wide enough for vehicles, with pavements and bicycle lanes.

Mr Herron said pipes and drainage systems would be installed for stormwater and to prevent flooding, along with traps to keep litter and silt out of the vlei.

But Ms Millbank doubts taxis from Masiphumelele will travel all the way up Kommetjie Road to Houmoed Avenue and then all the way around towards Noordhoek.

“In my opinion, they will continue to use Kommetjie Road. I predict that ambulances, fire engines and SAPS will still use Kommetjie Road en route from Fish Hoek and Ocean View,” she said.

“I expect that anger and frustration will grow quickly and that the uncertainty that is threatening the community will turn to protests and even rioting.

“I do not speak for the community. I speak as a concerned activist who is desperate to see the human rights of the community of Masiphumelele respected.”