I have the need to rant. I don't often rant, in fact I haven't ranted at all really in all the time that I've been a blogger. But there is something that really, really pisses me off. Johannesburg is booming right now. Situated in the richest province in the country, people are flocking here from all over the country, and even the continent, in search of work. From poor rural people, and immigrants from other African countries who move into informal settlements, to aspiring middle class professionals who move into the suburbs, they're all coming to Johannesburg, Jozi, Igoli, City of Gold.
Now this in its self, I don't have a problem with. But, obviously because Johannesburg is expanding at such a rapid rate, this means lots of new housing developments, mainly in the form of closed off estates containing hundreds of housing units. They range from upscale multimillion rand luxury estates to more modest and affordable developments.
For the most part these developments are carried out by big companies who make huge profits, and all they are interested in is making money and to hell with the environment. Our so called green lungs are being threatened, ecologically important wetlands are being destroyed and hundreds of trees are disappearing from a city that is seriously in danger of losing it's reputation as being the largest man-made forest in the world.
The part that really gets to me, as that as ordinary citizens, it seems that we have no say over what goes goes on in our own city and our own public open spaces. There is a whole process that's meant to be followed in terms of letting people in the area being developed know about the proposed development, a proper Environmental Impact Assessment is meant to be conducted, there is meant to be a specific time period in which community members and affected persons can lodge their objections. How do you lodge an objection if you aren't properly informed about what's going on?
What's even worse is that there have been a number of environmental whistleblowers who have been taken to court on various pretexts by the developers in order to shut them up, and these ordinary middle class people are being sued for millions of rands for trying to speak up which is their Constitutional right.
Another example, I live on a hill a couple of blocks up from a main road which is a commercial road with restaurants and shops and blocks of flats. My bedroom window used to have a beautiful view over the sparkling lights of my suburb at night, until a huge illuminated advertising billboard was slapped up on one of the blocks of flats. Because of the way my house is situated on the hill, and the height of the billboard, my entire view is now blocked by this ugly billboard which throws light into the room.
I called the City Council to complain and was told that the billboard had been granted the required permission and was legal AND why didn't I complain before the billboard went up. OK, I replied, how was I meant to know that a billboard was going to be put up until I actually saw it? Well, said the Council person knowingly, due process was followed in this case. A notice was pinned to the wall of the building 3 months before it went up, and it was advertised under Notices in the Classified section of The Star and The Beeld newspapers. Hell, how was I supposed to know to check the Notices, I never read the Classified section, and I seldom walk past the block of flats so I wouldn't have seen the notice anyway.
That is a totally ridiculous way of keeping the public informed, they should have to send out circulars to all residents within a certain radius of the proposed development, billboard or what ever else is being planned for public spaces that will affect the people living there.
I understand that Joburg is growing and houses need to be built, but it seems that there is no longterm town planning with foresight that will protect and preserve our environment. Surely the public should be PROPERLY involved and informed so that we can work together with the developers towards a longterm sustainable vision for our city.
It really pisses me off that we aren't properly informed and have no say in what happens!!!!