Rynhard du Plessis, a recreational fisherman who founded Save Durban Harbour, offers his view at yesterday’s brainstorming session about solving Durban Harbour’s pollution woes. Duncan Guy
Rynhard du Plessis, a recreational fisherman who founded Save Durban Harbour, offers his view at yesterday’s brainstorming session about solving Durban Harbour’s pollution woes. Duncan Guy

Crisis meeting brainstorms solution to dire state of Durban harbour

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Apr 17, 2021

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Durban - Vagrants, vandals and criminals play a huge role in the polluted state of Durban harbour.

Yesterday at a crisis meeting, about 25 minds harbouring knowledge of the problems and solutions to the port of Durban’s pollution started the process of trying to find a solution.

“My understanding is that there is a network of criminal activity that makes use of the storm water system. ”Runners need access,“ a city official said at a crisis meeting.

Greg Williams, manager of stormwater design at eThekwini Municipality, said this was particularly the case in the canals adjacent to the sugar terminal.

He said anything blocking their way would be vandalised.

Metro Police representative Captain Logan Pillay told the meeting it was frustrating that vagrancy was treated as a low level crime.

“If people arrested for it are able to offer an address, they are taken there and displaced. Those who do not are taken to court and released.”

Noticeable by its absence were any key representatives of the city’s largest stakeholder, Department of Water and Sanitation.

Transnet, which was represented at the meeting, is responsible for keeping the port clean while the eThekwini Municipality has been responsible for maintaining the stormwater drains through which much of the muck enters the bay. There has been little co-operation between the two parties over the years in what has been described as a “crazy” back-and-forth exchange of emails as the harbour and the municipality held one another responsible for the mess.

Out of the meeting, also attended by business people and non-governmental organisations, came a pledge that over the next six months, floating structures on smaller pipes through which water flowed from the city into the port, would be replaced.

“Bigger pipes would be more complex,” said Williams, saying budget issues and staff shortages caused by instances such as staff who had resigned, not having been replaced, were added challenges.

“It may take longer to get the right type of trash trap,” he said.

Numerous speakers stressed the importance of tackling waste collection at its source, often at inland informal settlements that were “ticking time bombs until the next rains”.

Rynhard du Plessis, a recreational fisherman who founded the group, Save Durban Harbour, called on the city to incentivise people to use landfill sites by not charging them.

“They should pay us per bakkie load of rubbish. The owner of a small business cannot afford the petrol and the time to go all the way to Illovo or Verulam. It’s cheaper and easier for him to dump illegally.”

He also noted that a boat, especially equipped to deal with water pollution, appeared to be sitting idly in the harbour.

A Transnet representative explained that it had not been in service because of staff and budgetary constraints. Replying to Du Plessis’s suggestion that volunteers be allowed to man it, he said it was Transnet policy not to allow outside parties to take control of their assets.

The meeting also heard that it would be more efficient to involve private sector players in clean-up projects and this would lead to a chance of job opportunities being created.

Frustrated restaurateur Ayub Essop said he had invested R11 million in a business and held “umpteen" meetings with the city to address port pollution.

"Bit I am still waiting to hear, after two years, what they are doing. Where are the people who make the decisions? They are nowhere to be found," he said.

“A lot came up that people had not heard about before,” said DA PR councillor Sharmaine Sewshanker, who organised the meeting.

“Now we need a follow up meeting when a way forward has been created.”

The Independent on Saturday

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