The provincial government's probe into the rash of golf and polo
estates being developed along the southern Cape coast comes not a
moment too soon.

In combination with the strategic environmental
assessment of the Garden Route which will start later this year, there
may just be a chance of saving one of South Africa's most treasured
holiday destinations from self-destruction.

These are harsh words, but the situation is so dire it demands a candid assessment.

developments are springing up all along the southern Cape coast,
leaving the ecosystems from which they were carved blighted and

According to respected analysts, disappointed
tourists are already asking the question: "Just where is the 'garden'
in the Garden Route?"

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the
beholder; there are those who prefer the manicured, water-guzzling
fairways of a golf course to natural fynbos or indigenous forest.
Others' idea of a good holiday is a luxury hotel and a nearby shopping

It's true that such developments have provided
vitally-needed job opportunities, although just how many, how
sustainable and how personally enhancing such jobs are is still a very
open question.

There are numerous examples all over the world
of once lovely areas being ruined by unsustainable, ill-conceived
development that devastated the very attributes that attracted people
there in the first place.

The south coast of Spain is a prime
example. The fault lies not with the developers, who by their nature
seize whatever opportunities they're allowed.

Rather, it is the
planning and environmental authorities, through their various political
heads, who have a case to answer. It is nearly always possible, legally
and ethically, to say "No".

Let's hope the investigation
persuades our political leaders to take a long-term view and save the
Garden Route from becoming the victim of its own success.