Clean Surf Project clean-up co-ordinator Denzil van der Westhuizen (left) and Plastics SA co-ordinator Douw Steyn in eManzimtoti yesterday, where they held a clean-up operation.
DURBAN - Thousands of volunteers gathered to pack thousands of bags of plastic waste that were found floating along Durban’s coastline at the weekend following the devastating floods that ripped through the city over Easter.

But more still needs to be done to save the rivers and beaches in KwaZulu-Natal.

Plastics SA clean-up co-ordinator Douw Steyn said that, as devastating as the floods were, it highlighted that there was no waste management, recycling and education happening in the province.

Steyn said that for many kilometres, plastic items could be seen floating along the coastline.

“It was very sad to see so much rubbish on the beaches coming from the rivers. The worst is that 99% of the plastic items we picked up were recyclable items,” he said.

Steyn co-ordinated a chain clean-up operation along eManzimtoti, Beachwood Mangroves, Durban Harbour and uMngeni river mouth at the weekend.

More clean-up operations are planned for this week.

“It is going to take a long time to pick everything up. Apart from the plastic, there is a lot of debris like trees and stuff that we have to move around. Volunteers, industry and the government really need to come together,” Steyn said.

He added that communities needed to start litter clubs that would clean up areas and promote recycling.

The city quantified the estimated cost of the damage caused by the floods last week to reach more than R650million. The death toll now stands at 85.

In a response last week, the Durban Chamber of Commerce requested a clear plan from the city which would outline the steps to be taken to minimise the socio-economic risks of heavy rainfall, as well as infrastructure maintenance and development that will improve drainage and traffic congestion issues.

Palesa Phili, the Durban chamber’s chief executive, said there had been many reports that commercial and residential properties, and key infrastructure, had been flooded.

Phili said the resultant damage to property and loss of productivity, mainly due to ageing infrastructure and the inability of the stormwater drainage systems to easily drain rain water, was catastrophic and unsustainable.

In response, city spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the primary cause of the increased impact of flooding during storm events was the increase in debris being carried by the stormwater.

He said the waste was, unfortunately, a sign of the degradation of the public’s attitude to how they dispose of waste responsibly.

“This is from the general public to businesses who don’t want to pay for the proper disposal of their waste,” he said.

Mayisela said the city was attempting to deal with these issues, but without the support of businesses and the public, as well as a change in the behaviour, it was an uphill battle.

He added that the city’s roads and stormwater maintenance teams carry out cyclical maintenance cleaning of the stormwater systems, but this was constantly interrupted by the urgent calls to unblock drains, which, in some cases, had been cleaned in the previous week and which were now blocked due to illegal dumping, Mayisela said.

He added that the biggest contributor to blockages of road crossings and the associated flooding and damage was alien vegetation.

“City officials have been successfully testing the installation of debris walls upstream of the road crossings. These are designed to trap debris upstream of the crossing, thereby reducing the risk of the culvert blocking and the road overtopping. These are being rolled out across the city, with road crossings that are known for flooding being the priority,” he said.

Regarding rehabilitating damaged infrastructure, the city said funds would be claimed from insurance, while some money would be sourced from eThekwini Municipality’s internal reserves.

A report would also be submitted to the provincial and national government, requesting funding for the projects.

Following the tabling of the report, city manager Sipho Nzuza has been authorised to direct all units to assess infrastructure and implement emergency rehabilitation where required. Nzuza must also develop programmes that will respond to national and provincial programmes in light of the disaster.

For the engineering unit, 33 wards were affected - with damage including culvert repairs, stormwater pipes, collapsed ponds, deck subsidence and road closures. The projected cost is R248m.

The human settlements unit has calculated the total cost of damage at almost R328m. This includes repairs to RDP houses, transit camp units, informal settlements, retaining walls, hostel blocks and 293 houses.

Twelve facilities of the parks and recreation unit were affected, with several libraries and the art gallery flooded.

Meanwhile, the electricity unit estimated costs to be more than R19m, with repairs to 11 substations, as well as the HV network, to be undertaken.

The health unit estimates the cost of damage to be R3m, with the roofs of clinics in a number of areas damaged, as well as some consultation rooms flooded.

The city’s executive committee also authorised the Treasury to identify emergency funding for emergency relief and rehabilitation.

In addition, the Treasury has been authorised to reprioritise Urban Settlements Development Grant funding in order to fund the human settlements projects.