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Durban Chamber says storms a threat to the local economy, urges govt to share disaster management plan

The M4 near the old airport was partially closed to traffic following at least four days of heavy rains. Picture: KZN EMS

The M4 near the old airport was partially closed to traffic following at least four days of heavy rains. Picture: KZN EMS

Published Apr 12, 2022

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Durban - The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called on local and provincial government to urgently share their disaster management plan with stakeholders.

It says the magnitude and the frequency of the storms were proving to be a massive risk to the growth and development of the local economy.

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According to the Chamber’s CEO, Palesa Phili, the region is home to some of South Africa's largest manufacturers, who are under threat.

"If the matter is not resolved this will have a negative effect on the country's overall GDP," Phili said.

She said as a port city, eThekwini was heavily reliant on the logistics sector and the province's road infrastructure.

“Government needs to communicate and immediately action its plan for infrastructure maintenance and development that will improve drainage and traffic congestion issues.

"The damage to property and loss of productivity, mainly due to ageing and inadequately maintained infrastructure, is disastrous and unsustainable and will have a cascading negative effect on economic activity. There needs to be a serious review of stormwater drainage systems especially related to our local and provincial road networks to ensure that rainwater can be easily drained away," Phili said.

She said the persistent heavy rains for the past two days had resulted in catastrophic flooding in various parts of eThekwini, impacting road networks and infrastructure, as well as major highways such as the M4 and N2.

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Phili said these road networks represent crucial business infrastructure, providing a linkage between business and industries in eThekwini.

"Any loss in any part of this economic infrastructure for an unspecified period will have a devastating impact on the manufacturing, travel and tourism, agriculture and many more, and this inevitably causing huge loss through operations and expenses in business. Many businesses cannot afford further losses as they are still recovering from 2021 July unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

The Chamber said whilst it was still early to determine the exact economic losses, based on its observation properties and critical infrastructure had been severely damaged,

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Phili said any further rainfall in eThekwini could lead to further flooding, as the ground is completely saturated.

"The magnitude and the frequency of these storms are proving to be a massive risk to the growth and development of the local economy especially in an already constrained economic environment with a major challenge being the inability to transport and deliver goods and services to various destinations due to flooding and traffic congestion.

“Adding that this translates into reduced turnaround times and inefficiencies that amount to significant losses for businesses, she said over and above this, small businesses may not have adequate insurance to recover their losses, hence, jeopardising their existence and sustainability going forward.”

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If these losses are not recovered, Phili said, over time the local economy would suffer significantly.

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