Environmentalists say Dreamworld’s all wet

Complex to be up and running by mid-2006

JOHANNESBURG — Anant Singh’s Dreamworld Film City studio complex north of Cape Town has come under fire from environmentalists who claim it will destroy a wetland system and plants unique to the Cape Flats.

Work has already started on the 489-acre complex, which is due to be up and running by mid-2006.

The studio is being built with the backing of the Western Cape provincial government, which chose the Dreamworld consortium (Videovision Entertainment, terrestrial commercial broadcaster e.tv and producer Mike McCarthy) three years ago. It wants to attract big-budget Hollywood productions to the country to boost the local economy.

At the time, Dreamworld’s proposal did not include housing, but now the developers claim the project will not be financially viable without housing and commercial developments. Their new plans propose filling in the seasonal wetlands on the site.

An amended draft environmental assessment report was published this month, but with just a six-day period for comment that ended May 9.

According to the study by U. of Cape Town biologists, most of the environmental degradation that will occur will be on land earmarked for housing and developments other than the core film studio, and there is “just not enough non-conservation space for both filming and housing schemes to be developed.”

The researchers concluded that virtually all of the Dreamworld site can be classified as a mosaic of seasonal or permanent wetland with Category A conservation status within the city of Cape Town’s biodiversity network.

The environmental assessment and comments from interested parties are being studied, with a response expected by the end of the month. Dreamworld has not responded.