Anger as navy starts underwater blasting near Simon's Town
Video footage confirms exercise despite ongoing opposition
The navy started underwater blasting close to the Simon’s Town naval base on Wednesday.
An eyewitness captured video footage of one of the blasts. It shows a plume of water shooting into the air immediately adjacent to one of several navy boats circulating inside the demarcated detonation zone.
Dave Hurwitz, a local resident and naturalist operating a boat charter business out of Simon’s Town, captured one of the blasts on video: “Yes, I was there,” he told TimesLIVE.
Some residents posted outraged comments on the Simon’s Town Navy Underwater Blasting Opposition WhatsApp group, which has 184 members
“Definitely was a blast — felt windows, ears, wooden floors,” said one Simon’s Town resident. “Another big one — 14h00”, she posted shortly afterward.
“Yes, my chair reverberated,” replied another resident.
News of the impending drill circulated widely recently on social media after the navy published a navigational alert to warn of a shallow-water detonation exclusion zone effective for a week.
TimesLIVE witnessed boats moving to and from the naval base on Wednesday. Detonations were audible from nearby suburbs, including Glencairn Heights a few kilometres away.
The planned exercise drew criticism from environmental groups, including the Western Cape branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society, which this week appealed for intervention from the department of forestry, fisheries and the environment.
Regional chair Patrick Dowling asked the department's portfolio committee to contact the defence force with a view to changing their policies regarding underwater blasting.
“Not doing everything that can be done to intervene and help rectify potentially destructive human practices, in South Africa at least, compromises the constitutional provision that everyone has the right to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation [and] promote conservation,” Dowling said.
The letter was sent on Monday.
The navy had earlier said the drill was specifically located to cause minimum impact.
Environmental groups view the blasting as a potential threat to the marine environment, particularly as the site is close to the world famous Boulders Beach African penguin breeding colony.
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