Bantamsklip is the name given to spot on a pristine coastline of the southern cape.  There are no signposts declaring this spot to be Bantamsklip or public roads that lead to this spot. It is known by local fisherman and inhabited by numerous sea birds, fish, whales and an abundance of local vegetation and marine life. None of its inhabitants care less about its name and probably are satisfied that it has remained undisturbed for many thousands of years. Even the human footprint is small – except for a ship wreck not far from this place and a few shell middens built by Khoisan ‘strandlopers’ over the last few thousands of years ago. This spot has been proposed by Eskom as a site to build one of the three nuclear plants planned for South Africa.

Proposed-Nuclear-Plant-site

This geographical spot became noticed once the reality of the building of a nuclear plant became known. Botanists, marine biologists, ecologists, archaeologists, palaeontologists, geologists and zoologists, amongst others were called upon to study Bantamsklip and its environment as required by law. The impact of building such plant requires careful studies on the impact it may have. This attention to an otherwise forgotten place produced an array of studies that indicated to the pristine nature of the place as well as the existence of many endemic plants and animals as well as historically important archeologically sites.

It is, moreover an island in a sea of private and public nature reserves, marine reserves, national parks, heritage sites and Special Management Areas. It is recognised as a World botanical ‘hot-spot’. Very few would argue that this place is not worth conserving.

Many local as well as national organisations objected to this proposal and the ‘Save Bantamsklip’ organisation was founded.  ‘Save Bantamsklip’ was established some five years ago by a group of local Overberg citizens viewing the intention of the Government to establish a nuclear plant at Bantamsklip as inappropriate and ill-advised.

We have other examples of such movements born from ‘ill-advised’ and ‘inappropriate’ interventions by governments and big energy companies all over the world.  For decades the city of Freiburg in Germany has been a leader in the field of sustainable living. It all started as a peaceful protest in Wyhl, a small community in the Kaiserstuhl, 25 kilometres from Freiburg. Here citizens from Freiburg and the region – for the first and probably the last time – stopped the construction of a nuclear power plant. This protest action created a broad support base and started a strong environmental movement engaging in a multitude of initiatives. Freiburg is seen as a model eco-city today and this event was also the impetus for the establishment of the Green Party in Germany.

Bantamsklip is significant; as a symbol that compels us to make a choice. The choice between ‘Business as Usual’ – the conventional practices on fossil based energy generation and drifting with uncertainty into the future or to adopt a vision for the Overberg as a model for developing a sustainable society (in the comprehensive sense of the term in which electric generation plays a role) in this semi-rural area for the future.  In other words, Bantamsklip is a trigger that forces us to consider the broader issue of other options available for energy generation. This then creates the space for the debate about our energy future and, specifically, sustainable energy generation.

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Photograph Kali van der Merwe www.kali.co.za