Square Kilometer Array

The KDF, through its in-house NGO, Karoo Dynamics, secured an important project as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope in Carnarvon, Northern Cape. This project took six months to complete, from mid-2016 until January 2017.

The SKA is a massive astronomy enterprise, focusing on radio-waves (in contrast to SALT, at Sutherland, which is an optical telescope). The SKA does not "look at" the stars; it "listens to" them, via ancient radio-waves that were sent out throughout history, as far back as the Big Bang. The SKA is a multi-national project, involving several European and African governments. In South Africa, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), is the custodian of the project (www.ska.ac.za) for fascinating details about this cutting-edge project.

Since 2007, the precursors to SKA have been implemented on a site about 90 km north-west of Carnarvon. These projects were called KAT-7 and MeerKAT. More recently, South Africa won a bid from the international SKA organisation, to build a large component of the SKA infrastructure in the Northern Cape. An additional set of components will be based in Australia.

In order to understand the long-term implications of SKA for the economy of the Carnarvon sub-region, as well as the Northern Cape and South Africa, Karoo Dynamics was commissioned to write the socio-economic chapter of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The SEA is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs, and the CSIR was the managing agent. Several other chapters have also been written, notably on agriculture, heritage, biodiversity and water management. These chapters will be released soon (around the end of January 2017) for public comment.

The KDF/KD chapter focuses on a variety of topics, including the impact of SKA on agriculture (especially since SKA is purchasing about 32 farms around the site), the impact of SKA on radio-wave technologies in the area, the potential of astro-tourism, and the likely impacts on the surrounding towns.

As soon as the report is available for public comment, please visit our page again – we will provide a link, and we will encourage you to submit your views on these reports.

The KD team involved an exciting range of skills. The team was led by Prof Doreen Atkinson (KDF Trustee), with the organisational support of Lindile Fikizolo (Managing Director, KD). Two other specialists played important roles: Rae Wolpe focused on the macro-economic aspects of SKA, while Adv Hendrik Kotze of Stellenbosch University undertook a study of the local political dynamics in the Carnarvon region. The team also included Sindisile Madyo (KDF Trustee, and LED officer at Pixley ka Seme District Municipality), and Caroline Poole (development planner and Director of KD). The team paid visits to the Carnarvon region (including Williston, Brandvlei and Vanwyksvlei), as well as Kimberley, where we consulted with Provincial Government officials.

We now look forward greatly to public inputs on the CSIR reports, before our report is finalised.