Durban’s dire climate catastrophe

A blue line depicting just how high the sea could rise if nothing is done to halt climate change. Graphic: supplied

A blue line depicting just how high the sea could rise if nothing is done to halt climate change. Graphic: supplied

Published Sep 27, 2011


A “Blue LINE” will be painted along several sections of the Durban beachfront within the next few weeks to show just how high the sea could rise if nothing is done to halt climate change.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize said the idea behind the project was to raise awareness about some of the “devastating impacts” of climate change in the build-up to the UN climate change summit (COP17) to be held in Durban from November 28 to December 9.

Opening the provincial summit on climate change in Durban yesterday, he said his office was planning a march through the city during the summit.

It was hoped ministers, business leaders and other groups would participate in the march, which would follow part of the “blue line” representing a possible future sea level rise in Durban.

Details have not been announced yet, but it is understood that the line could be based on a 1m rise in sea level.

Based on recent research and computer modelling by the eThekwini municipality, a 1m rise is likely to undermine or destroy large areas of Durban’s Golden Mile, including several hotels and other tourist infrastructure.

The city has modelled a number of scenarios based on projections of 300mm, 600mm and 1m sea-level rises.

Four years ago, the UN’s expert scientific body on climate change projected that the sea level around the world could rise from anywhere between 180mm and 580mm by the end of this century as result of rising ocean temperatures and the melting of glaciers, snow and ice in polar regions.

However, recent work by German climate change researcher Stefan Rahmstorf and other scientists has suggested a sea-level rise of 1m was possible before 2100.

Some cities in the US and other parts of the world are also considering demarcating blue lines to raise awareness.

Mkhize also announced that the Provincial Planning Commission had been asked to make new recommendations concerning environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in the province.


“It has been instructed to redesignate the province into three areas to guide the issuing of EIA certificates.

“These include areas where development is highly needed and environmental disturbance is minimal; in areas where development is needed and degree of environmental impact evaluation is necessary; and lastly areas where environmental sensitivity will be enforced strongly to protect the environment and discourage any possibility of the destruction of the environment.

“We believe this approach will create the necessary balance between developmental imperatives and environmental conservation.”

Mkhize also outlined brief details of a project involving the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a prominent research institution in the US to develop a new Solar Energy Institute in the province.

“The Provincial Planning Commission is analysing the wind channels in the pro-vince as well as sunlight intensity and has started a number of pilot programmes to encourage independent power producers using wind and solar energy production.

“We are inviting investors in alternative power production to come and partner with our province in this focus and we trust they will come forward to showcase techno- logies as part of the production of the green economy,” Mkhize said. - The Mercury

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