MISSION  30 of  2011

Name of Mission: Techabanine proposed deep water port  
Date of Mission: 18, 20 and 21 November 2011  
Aircraft used: Foxbat A22         
Pilot: Brett Hill      
Beneficiary: Paul Dutton – Environmental Consultant   

Objective of the Flight     

To obtain visual material showing the sensitivity of a coastal reserve area off Mozambique, including coral reefs, that will be permanently damaged by the creation of a deep water port

Pilot’s story of the mission            By Brett Hill

On Friday the 18 November 2011 it was raining with reduced visibility in Instrument Met Conditions (IMC) and King Shaka Airport made us wait for hours at the Ballito airstrip. Finally they let us in to clear customs and  immigration. We finally left at 10h30, dodging rain squalls all the way to Lake St Lucia, and then the sky began to lighten up a bit. Paul and I shared the flying and Paul pointed out and named all the natural features and conservation areas en route to Maputo airport.

Having refuelled we set our compass for Ponto d Ouro, flying over the most beautiful landscapes. Kenton Kirkwood, who is spearheading the Techabanine port campaign, had given up waiting for us and was snorkelling over a coral reef exactly where blasting will take place to establish the port entrance. Paul took some still photos through the open door of the aircraft, while my mini GoPro camera attached to the wing strut videoed the area, including a pristine reef in about 5 metres of clear water. We spent a mosquito-free night with Kenton’s family at Malungane, viewing our material from the day’s shoot.

03After a violently stormy night the day appeared cloudy but video professional Bill Maliepaard managed to get some very useful footage that will augment a series of Youtube video clips that have already attracted a lot of attention. Kenton is a very busy person and he had to leave us to fly to his work base in Iran. In contrast to the Five Star comfort of the previous evening, we ended up in a rustic establishment whose squadrons of mosquitoes helped themselves, generously, to our blood, leaving us fretful of developing the telltale shivers of malaria within the week!

On the Sunday we flew back to Maputo airport in marginal weather to complete a labyrinth of documentation and then a final refuelling for our return flight to King Shaka. It was a case of chalk and cheese comparing the efficiency and friendliness of the two international airports.   

Joining the landing circuit at this busy hub was challenging but we felt comfortable with a calm voice from the tower fitting us into a number of “heavies” on final and some ready for take-off. Finally we climbed out in a brisk 25 knot headwind for our final destination, Ballito. We were both tired but happy to have achieved the mission’s objectives, with unstinting support from The Bateleurs – Flying for the Environment in Africa .

04Beneficiary’s story of the mission        By Paul Dutton        

Bad weather notwithstanding we were able to capture high definition stills and videos of the area planned for a deep water port, as well areas already being prepared for heavy industry, improvement of rail and road linkages and housing for 10 000 Chinese workers tasked to implement a “turnkey” project that will also impact on contiguous coastal areas in South Africa. The USD 7 billion project, funded by the World Bank, is not being guided by an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).  

As a result of this flight, two YouTube video clips have been produced and have engendered a great deal of concern worldwide http://youtube/eRf4DaPfh28  and http://youtube/DuDAFt1uibo. It is a serious omission that The Bateleurs were not mentioned in the two clips, but this will be rectified in future You Tube presentations. 

06A committee comprising the main organiser, Kenton Kirkwood, an international observer, Vance Martin, environmental lawyer, Jeremy Ridl, local campaigner, John White and I, have formulated a plan to approach the threat from the South African side. The threat includes various environmental and social impacts which developments at Techabanine will have on our own coastal areas including Kosi Bay and further south.

We will request our Department of the Environment to institute an independent EIA because a number of tripartite protocols, including the Transfrontier Conservation Area and the iSimangaliso World Heritage site, will be breached by the Techabanine development. Vance Martin has been tasked to approach the World Bank in the USA about the need for an independent EIA.

Was the objective of the Flight met?

Over three days a total of 12.5 hours were spent in the air, and we acquired valuable information supported by numerous aerial visuals.