Cape Town - South Africa's seas are swimming with sewage, Deputy Environmental Affairs Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi revealed on Friday.
“South Africans are known to discharge over 300 million litres of sewage every day into the marine environment, much of which is untreated or partially treated, and thus posing a serious threat to marine habitats, species and the public.”
She was speaking at an event in East London to mark World Oceans Day.
The figure of 300 million litres was later confirmed by the minister's spokesman, Peter Mbelengwa.
Mabudafhasi said in a speech prepared for delivery that the volume of this sewage pollution was “increasing significantly”, and the country had to find a better way of managing the problem.
“Over the past few decades, scientists around the world have observed the appearance of so-called ‘dead zones’ in the ocean, where the levels of oxygen are so low that marine life cannot be supported.”
Such dead zones were caused by, among other things, the excessive nutrients in sewage.
“We do not want these areas to appear in the oceans of South Africa and therefore we must find better ways of managing our waste.”
Mabudafhasi said she had attended a United Nations inter-governmental conference earlier this year, where discussions were held on the action needed to tackle the causes of poor coastal water quality.
“At that particular meeting, which was attended by 65 countries, it was unanimously agreed that we should step up our efforts to tackle the damaging effects of sewage, marine litter and nutrients on our oceans.”
South Africa had 3000km of coastline, with hundreds of beaches set aside for the public’s enjoyment and recreation.
“Our beaches are much sought-after by both South Africans and international visitors and are a major economic driver in the country’s ever-growing tourism industry.
“As a country therefore, we have much to lose if we do not ensure that our beach waters are protected from pollution, because ultimately that pollution will affect us and our economy,” she said. - Sapa