VETCH’S Pier at high tide. But even at low tide there’s nothing there to remind us of how it once was and our municipal leaders should hang their heads in shame at the destruction they have caused, says a reader.
LETTER - What was intended to be the northern breakwater of our harbour, the remnants of a disastrous project of the 1860s, turned out to be a valuable asset to Durban, providing a wonderful lifestyle in the form of snorkelling, spearfishing, a safe launch, as well as becoming the largest inshore sub-tidal mussel bed in the province.

Vetch’s Pier was estimated to host 85 tons of mussels. Since the 1940s thousands of people would flock to it and on weekends it would not be unusual to see hundreds of people snorkelling, enjoying the diversity of life on the reef.

I recall seeing crayfish, octopus and numerous species of fish in their hundreds, barely 5m from the shore in knee-deep water. It was a haven for learner snorkellers and there are few spear fishermen and scuba divers in our city who have not donned their first goggles and flippers on Vetch’s Pier.

This reef is the main reason why there are any fish in the entire Vetch’s/Addington area. But today this valuable asset is dying and even in good weather only a handful of snorkellers can be seen.

In this age when taking care of our environment is on everybody’s minds, who would be responsible for causing that?

One need look no further than our own municipality, the people we entrust and pay handsomely to run our city, which includes protecting our environment.

Years ago we were proud to have perhaps the largest and most efficient sand-pumping scheme in the world. They were able to replenish our beachfront with ease, by being able to pump sand at will to a precise section of the beach where it was actually required.

But today, the new pumping scheme is incapable of doing that, only being able to pump sand up to the Addington area. To hide their inefficiency, for the past 10 years or so they have been dumping thousands of tons of sand on Vetch’s Beach and hoping the northern-bound littoral drift will carry it to the central and northern beaches.

While a small amount does find its way to the northern beaches, most of the sand simply flows out to sea, burying Vetch’s Pier with all its inhabitants in its path, and smothering Limestone Reef and all the other small reefs in the area.

Today, the first 200m of Vetch’s Pier is buried under tons of sand and lost for ever. This irresponsible practice has had a catastrophic effect on the marine life in the area, not only by destroying their habitat but, as the sediment clogs fish’s gills, they simply avoid the area.

Several species have disappeared from our beachfront. Any angler frequenting the area will know this.

The over-supply of sand has pushed the sea so far back that the intake pipes of uShaka beneath Moyo Pier are left high and dry, affecting flow of fresh seawater to the aquarium. But further north on our main beaches, our biggest tourist attraction, the situation is different.

People will remember the state of our beachfront earlier in the year, where there was not a grain of sand on our central beaches and sand bags were placed to defend our promenade from the crashing waves.

It was only after some negative publicity that our metro eventually “tried to do something”.

Incapable of pumping the sand themselves, they relied on a Transnet dredger to pump directly on to those beaches, costing the ratepayers R19.4million and shutting down the beaches for a month, including the Easter long weekend.

I cannot see this reef with all its once-abundant marine life surviving for much longer.

Our municipal leaders should hang their heads in shame.

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The Mercury