Aerial view of Durban beach and harbour. File Picture.
Aerial view of Durban beach and harbour. File Picture.

Calls for eThekwini Municipality to step up beach maintenance to boost tourism after sewage spills

By Sibusiso Mboto Time of article published Sep 30, 2021

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DURBAN - THE eThekwini Municipality has been urged to speedily deal with the sewage spills that are plaguing Durban’s beaches if it hopes to capitalise on tourism spend during the festive season.

Last Friday, the municipality said it had closed some central Durban beaches after “beyond normal” E-coli levels were found. At the time, the city said teams were working on a malfunctioning sewer pump station that was constantly being vandalised for scrap metals.

On Saturday, it said that the Addington, South and uShaka beaches had been reopened after the E-coli levels had improved.

Environmental activist Margaret Burger says last week’s closure of many Durban beaches and the subsequent loss of revenue over the long weekend should serve as a warning to city authorities to be on high alert over the harmful effects of pollution.

Burger, who is the chairperson of the Wildlife and Environment Society of

South Africa, said failure by the city over the years to deal with sewer spillages had resulted in the closure of beaches which has cost implications.

“This has been a long time coming, and now we have lost huge income this weekend to other venues up north or south where beaches are open for swimming,” said the environmental activist.

The sentiment for the city to act quickly was echoed by Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa KZN KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Brett Tungay who warned that the city could also lose out during the festive season if the beaches were not in pristine condition.

He said as a tourism body they were hoping that the provincial government would step in and assist all the coastal towns so that they all benefited during the December period.

Morgan Griffiths, who manages the Durban portfolio for Blue Flag Project, said if the beaches that were closed were among those with blue flag status, protocol dictated that the affected beaches be tested for E-coli over a 10-day period and if levels remained high, the status was withdrawn.

The blue flag status means that the beach has met the highest standards when it comes to cleanliness and levels of pollution are kept at a minimum ensuring safety for beachgoers.

Griffiths said blue flag status gives the city the competitive edge over others. “It simply means that the water is safe for recreational usage, that is why this is important for the city.”

If the blue flag status is withdrawn, the city would have the opportunity to apply in November which is the start of the new 12-month cycle used by the programme.

EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city conducted tests on beaches twice a month through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and its internal department of Scientific Services to determine pollution levels.

He blamed acts of vandalism on the city’s pump stations as the primary cause for the pollution in the beaches.

“We are hopeful that the security measures we are putting in place are going to assist tremendously to clamp down on this illicit behaviour.”

He said the only beaches that remained closed were the Bay of Plenty Beach and Blue Lagoon and the city was running tests on the pump that had been fixed.

“We are working towards having the remaining beaches open. We are also in the process of upgrading our security measures by installing beams that will detect any movement near the pump station and trigger an alarm that will result in armed security personnel responding within 10 minutes,” he said.

According to the city, the staff complement for the maintenance of beaches consists of:

♦ 65 permanent staff for ablution facilities

♦ 14 permanent staff for beach cleaning

♦ 12 permanent staff for sand drift

♦ In addition to this, the city has eight supervisors and 10 members from the Extended Public Works Programme, with additional seasonal staff employed during public holidays and during the festive season.

THE MERCURY

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