Comment on the River Club Local Spatial Development Framework by DR LJ Shannon

The following was submitted in response to the development planned along the Liesbeek River.

Comments: Dr LJ Shannon

In my capacity as a world-respected biological scientist and Chief Researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, I would like to make a few succinct comments on the proposed development(s) of the LSDF (previously known as Two Rivers Urban Park). I will keep these straight and to the point.

It is of great concern to me that of the 9 factors identified as key risks to the Biodiversity of our city in “The City of Cape Town Biodiversity Report 2018”, the proposed development of the Two Rivers Urban Park poses major risks to the affected areas in SIX of these categories, namely urbanisation, inappropriate fires, invasive species, crime, hydrology (changes) and pollution. It is my professional opinion from what I have seen thus far, that Option C would minimize these threats while still enabling development of housing, businesses and local industries that could provide much needed job prospects, especially where eco-tourism and cultural heritage are concerned.

As a qualified zoologist with ornithological research experience, as well as a keen birder in my spare time, I contest the statement made on page 3 in the “Summary of Environmental Structuring Elements, Two Rivers Urban Park” report of 2018 where it is written:

“Furthermore, the River Club site also does not hold avifaunal importance”. This statement is untrue and unvalidated. The River Club, Raapenberg and Oude Molen areas provide breeding, feeding and roosting habitat for numerous bird species and serve as home and migration corridors to a wide variety of indigenous bird species. In a city environment threatening our natural ecosystems, these are important ecological functions! The potential of the area to attract diverse avifauna has been well illustrated in the recent return of birdlife to the greenbelt following clean-up and rehabilitation drives in the area: these include waders (such as avocet, flamingo, African spoonbill), migrants such as the uncommon crab plover and the white-throated swallow, waterbirds such as white-faced whistling duck, Cape teal, yellow-billed duck, African black duck, birds of prey such as black sparrowhawk and steppe buzzard, amongst a myriad of others (pintailed whydah, southern red bishop, yellow bishop (Cape widowbird)).

Homing in on Oude Molen Eco-Village where I spend much time, it is noteworthy that this sub-area  contains High and Medium Faunal Sensitivity Areas (see Figure 2, Helme (2016) of the “Summary or Environmental Structuring Elements, Two Rivers Urban Park” report 2018), Critical Wetland Biodiversity Areas (Figure 1, SANBI (2016), same report refers), and areas demarcated to be of Medium and High Botanical Sensitivity (Figure 3, Helme 2016, same report refers). Oude Molen as well as the larger sub-area is home to IUCN Red-listed species including the ENDANGERED Leopard Toad (Sclerophrys pantherina) and the NEAR-THREATENED African clawless otter (Aonyx capensis). These alone warrant specific conservation attention and careful management.

I’d like to leave the reader with the following extracts from the recently-released Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 2019, in which I served as a lead-author ( ):
“Nature across most of the globe has now been significantly altered by multiple human drivers, with the great majority of indicators of ecosystems and biodiversity showing rapid decline… Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before. An average of around 25 per cent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened … suggesting that around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss.” These are certainly sobering thoughts to be borne in mind during our deliberations over the proposed developments under review.