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The eThekwini Municipality would not apply for Blue Flag accreditation, city manager S’bu Sithole said on Friday.
Tourism industry organisations have reacted with shock and disappointment at Sithole’s decision.
The final date for applications is on Saturday.
Sithole told the Daily News that there were still several issues that needed to be discussed and considered before the city put forward its application for Blue Flag status at several of its beaches.
“The standards for Blue Flag status are very high and in my view we have not attained those standards as yet.”
A few years ago, Durban had 10 beaches with Blue Flag or pilot status.
But the municipality pulled out from the programme in 2008 after several beaches failed to meet the scheme’s standards for sea water quality.
At the time, former city manager Mike Sutcliffe said the city withdrew because of inconsistent application of standards by Blue Flag especially with regard to water quality testing.
Sithole said South Africa was also looking at setting its own standards for beaches.
“If we have our own standards in place we may not have to apply for Blue Flag status. But I am not ruling it out. For now, we are weighing our options.”
Earlier this year, Sithole publicly said he was willing to review the city’s position on the matter and did not see any reason why Durban should not attain Blue Flag status.
Operations manager for the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa, Warren Ozard, said he was devastated to hear of Sithole’s decision.
“We have had meeting after meeting with the city manager and each time he indicated a favourable response towards the city applying for Blue Flag accreditation.
“We even drew up a masterplan and he even sanctioned that, saying the time was right for Blue Flag status.
“I am shocked and very saddened by his decision.”
Ozard said this would have a huge impact on attracting international tourists to Durban’s beaches.
“I will be taking this issue up very strongly with Sithole. This is just not on.”
DA councillor, Geoff Pullan, described Sithole’s decision as a “cop out”.
“This is a fantastic marketing tool and we are missing out. Blue Flag status tells beach-goers that the waters are not polluted, the beach has safe parking and life guards are on duty. It is a drawcard.”
Pullan said he had written to the city in April, raising concerns that no application had been made for Blue Flag accreditation.
He said to date he had received no reply.
“At a full council meeting in January it was unanimously decided the city would apply for this. I am baffled at this decision.
“I think it is being avoided so as to not address the issue of our water quality.
“I spoke to several city officials who have told me that more than seven of our beaches qualify for the Blue Flag pilot programme. I can’t believe we are missing out.”