Authorities in South Africa’s Western Cape province have shut down a dam-construction project after persistent trespassing by cyclists and hikers in the beauty spot resulted in one cyclist being severely injured.
Frustrated officials in the city of George have warned the public repeatedly that the Garden Route Dam is a heavy construction site with public access prohibited.
This week, however, they had to halt work altogether after a severely injured cyclist was discovered by other cyclists, who were themselves trespassing, and had to be evacuated by a medical team.
Contractors have been working to raise the dam’s spillway since May, with 36-ton lorries (unloaded) plying narrow, sharply bending roads carrying concrete and reinforcement.
Officials said the injured cyclist, found lying prone on one of the roads, was lucky to be alive because an approaching lorry may not have been able to stop in time.
"This is a no-go area with narrow access roads, frequent bends and drivers do not expect to encounter members of the public," the city said. "An injured person would in all probability not have been noticed in time for a driver to come to a stop resulting in an almost certain fatality."Â Â
The emergency medical evacuation brought construction to a halt, and the access road through the site had to be levelled to let the ambulance in.
Significant costs would have to be borne by the contractor, the city said.
"The process required a separate investigation by the Health and Safety agents, incident reporting, and the time delay resulted in the contractor having to bear the burden of the costs to cease all activities, specifically significant during the critical pouring of concrete, shut down all plant and then restart and resume works after the area was entirely cleared and declared safe.
"The situation results in a minority group exposing the entire community to project delays and cost claims by the contractor.
"Certain members of the public are simply ignoring the signage, cordons and the contractor’s warnings, posing a risk to themselves and the contractor. Initially, only a few transgressions were noted, but the problem has been steadily escalating with cyclists comprising the majority of the culprits."
Image: Reservoir of the Garden Route Dam in George, Western Cape province, South Africa (Oli4eben/CC BY-SA 4.0)