Cape Town - The City of Cape Town is spending around R500 000 a year managing an old dump site beneath the popular kite-surfing beach of Witsands between Kommetjie and Scarborough.
The sand dune system was used by the former Divisional Council of the Cape as a domestic disposal site for around 30 years until the mid-1980s. But there are still tons of plastic, bottles, old boots, shoes and other non-biodegradable material buried three to four metres deep.
Massive amounts of plastic pollution would often appear on the beach and wash into the sea near Kommetjie until the city implemented a project to rehabilitate the beach and re-establish the dunes over the landfill site. It has proved successful and, for the past 10 years or so, there has been no litter exposed.
But local blogger Jon Abbott has questioned how the city could justify spending this kind of money on an on-going basis on a rubbish dump that closed in 1985.
In his blog titled “City of Cape Town’s never ending money dump”, Abbott writes: “The Cape Town City Council has splurged an average of R500 000 a year on this over the last 10 years according to Johan van der Merwe, the councillor in charge of environmental planning.”
He also questions an additional R150 000 the city has spent on net fences to keep the sand in place, saying he believes that the best solution would be to cover the area with Port Jackson.
Patrick Dowling of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) said he would also like to see a longer term solution to the dump, with input from a public forum. “I’m not sure exactly how many tons we are talking about, but I do think we should be looking at the dump site itself.”
But Gregg Oelofse, the council’s head of environmental policy and strategy, said that to remove the landfill site would cost in the region of R40 million.
“From a city perspective we don’t have R40m. And if we did, we would invest it in other urgent matters.”
He said that moving it to the False Bay Landfill site would take months and would need a fleet of trucks along an already congested road.
Oelofse added they would never plant invasive Port Jackson and that managing the dunes was the best option.
He said it was a challenging project to manage as it was a dynamic shifting sand dune beach system. “The sand builds up in winter and then it gets transported by the south-easter in summer – much like the system in Hout Bay.”
Oelofse said the city had managed it successfully over the past eight or nine years by using old alien vegetation and building wind traps which helped slow the wind down and thicken the layer of sand.
Another challenge was the ponds that formed at the back of the beach which attracted birds and otters. “The water breaks through because of gravity and when it heads to the sea it is like a torrent.”
To manage this, the city initially used the alien vegetation hedgerows – although they were now using netting.
Before winter, they also open a channel along the side of the landfill site to the sea. “We haven’t had litter exposed for nearly 10 years.”
“It is cost-effective and is easier to pick up and move around where needed.”
Of the money spent managing the project, around 65 to 70 percent went towards job creation in Ocean View by using teams of workers, he added.