By Melanie Gosling
Just over 2 000 people marched through Jeffreys Bay on Sunday in protest against the multi-billion rand nuclear power station Eskom plans to build at the nearby Thyspunt.
While marchers converged on the local municipal offices where organisers handed over a memorandum, 14 chokka (squid) fishing boats dropped anchor just behind contestants in the Billabong international surfing championships and switched on their lights in support of the marchers.
The protest was organised by the Thyspunt Alliance, an umbrella body of several local resident, ratepayers, environmental, surfer and other organisations, who were joined by the chokka fishermen and a range of local people.
Allliance spokesperson Trudi Malan said on Sunday: “We thought we would not get many people because we were competing with the surfing and the rugby, but some of the surfers phoned and said please can we wait till the Kelly Slater heat had finished. We did and they all came rushing over. And some rugby fans told us they could always watch rugby again, but they may not have the opportunity to show their support again against a nuclear power station that would affect all their lives.”
Malan said the Alliance had purposely not entered the debate about the pros and cons of nuclear power, but were all opposed to siting a nuclear power station at Thyspunt. The Alliance was heavily critical of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) Eskom had commissioned, saying it had failed to address many biophysical issues of building the power plant at that spot.
Eskom had selected the site in the apartheid era with no input from the public. One of the criteria was that a site for a nuclear power station had to be at least 100km from any of the former “homeland” areas for security reasons.
“The EIA is an atrocious document. The biggest flaw is that it did not consider the chokka industry and there was no public participation in the site selection. During construction they will dump 6.3-million cubic metres of sand into the sea, which will kill the chokka industry. We do not want to jeopardise the development of our country, but we do not believe development should come at the expense of the environment,” Malan said.
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