Residents of Clairwood are expected to turn up in their numbers at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban on Friday when their lawyers challenge the provincial government’s approval of a massive R4,5bn logistics park at the old Clairwood Racecourse – once the only green lung in the area

The South Durban Environmental Alliance – through the Legal Resource Centre – wants a judge to overrule the decision which, they say, will only worsen the pollution-related illnesses the community suffers.

These are claimed to include cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The 76,4ha site is to be developed by Fortress Income Fund which has approval for warehouses, buildings, parking and a distribution yard to service heavy haulage vehicles transporting containers to and from the logistics park.

It is argued that the approved development abuts the residential suburb and the community – comprising 22 000 households and 200 000 residents – is already surrounded by heavy industry.

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

It is in close proximity to several major hazard installations, including two petrochemical refineries, a large paper mill, motor manufacturer and a major tank storage area where hazardous chemicals are stored and pipelines carry flammable substances in large volumes.

“The location of Clairwood in the South Durban Industrial Basin (SDIB) is a legacy of apartheid era town planning which deliberately located industry and working class communities in close proximity to each other.

“The objective was to ensure control of the disenfranchised in resource challenged townships while simultaneously ensuring the provision of labour for the burgeoning exclusively white industry.”

‘Not our duty’

The alliance alleges that in approving the development – and turning down its subsequent appeal – the then MEC for Economic Development Mike Mabuyakhulu had not taken into account the findings of two major health studies probing the effect of air pollution.

He also had not taken into account “the prevailing air quality conditions” and the impact the development could have on the well-being of the residents.

The present MEC, Sihle Zikalala, in his affidavit, claims these were taken into consideration, but, he adds, if the alliance “felt strongly about this aspect”, it should have put forward a more recent air impact assessment into the effects the development would have in the South Durban basin.

The alliance says that is not its job.

“It is plainly not our duty to provide the competent authority with the information necessary to reach a decision on an application for environmental authorisation.”

‘No genuine dispute’

Fortress Income Fund, in its heads of argument, says the environmental impact of the park was assessed.

“There is no significant danger to the health of local communities as a result of the development and the consequent use of heavy haulage vehicles during the construction and operation of the logistics and distribution park. The effect on air quality will be negligible.

“Air quality was not overlooked or ignored during the Environmental Impact Assessment process. An appropriately qualified air quality risk assessor investigated air quality impact. His substantive findings have not been challenged in a meaningful way.

“The applicant [the alliance] may disagree with those findings, but it has not raised a genuine dispute. Simple disagreement with the outcome is not a valid basis for judicial review,” it argues.

The matter is expected to be heard by Judge Rashid Vahed and judgment is expected to be reserved.