Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The stinking state of SA’s waters - No Blue Flags ONLY RED FLAGS..!
Is it safe to let our kids swim here?
Due to mismanagement, many of South Africa’s beaches and rivers have become cesspools of human waste and a threat to health and the environment. Go to the beach. Have a swim. And wallow in human ****. That’s the ugly reality facing bathers in Durban this holiday season: they can expect to find themselves swimming in human faeces — 18 million liters of it.
And despite being given two weeks to clean up their act, the eThekwini municipality failed to take the necessary steps to ensure its beaches were clean. This inertia led to the city losing four of its six “Blue Flags” — an internationally accredited rating — at its beaches this week.
North Beach, South Beach, Bay of Plenty and Addington Beach lost this status after failing tests for water quality. Litter and dirty ablution facilities were also cited as reasons for the decision. A fifth beach at Westbrook, north of Durban, is also set to lose its Blue Flag status.
Now the faecal-infested waters have raised a stink between environmentalists and the eThekwini municipality.
Although environmentalists say the impure water quality spells disaster for thousands of tourists who gather at Durban’s most famous attraction during the holidays, senior municipal officials have played down concerns. The head of eThekwini’s water and waste department, Neil Macleod, admitted that, in the past seven days, the volume of sewage flowing into the sea via the Isipingo River has been estimated at 18 million litres per day. The leak was a result of storm-damaged pipelines and Macleod said repair work to the damaged line was under way.
But the danger, says SA Blue Flag beach co-ordinator Allison Kelly, is that the filth is still in the water and the council doesn’t want to act in the best interests of its swimmers. She said her office had been inundated with telephone calls from local residents and Gauteng holidaymakers who wanted to know if it was safe to swim at Durban beaches.
“We need to let them now if the water is acceptable for swimming. At this stage we just don’t know; it could be good or bad. So, swim at your own risk,” she said.
She said the council was allowed a two- week grace period but “nothing happened and the Blue Flag (status) was taken away”.
“The loss is very worrying and has massive repercussions for our tourism industry, especially during this time when thousands of people come to the city to enjoy the beaches,” said Kelly.
Although Blue Flag status had also been withdrawn from Margate and Gonubie beach in East London in recent years, most participating beaches did not have difficulty in complying with the standards.
The situation at Margate and Gonubie had since improved considerably, following determined action by the municipalities to find and eradicate the pollution sources.
The environmentalists’ warning was echoed by independent national aquatic biologist Dr Mark Graham, whose recent report into water quality revealed the alarming extent of pollution in rivers and seas.
“It isn’t safe for the public or tourists to be swimming in water that contains raw sewage,” he said.
The DA’s Radley Keys, a member of the provincial legislature, said he was appalled by the “complete ineptitude and inaction on the part of the KZN Department of Environmental Affairs in response to the major incidences of water pollution in the province in the past the months”.
“While the priorities must be human and environmental health, the economic issues, such as losing domestic and international tourism revenue as a result of potentially losing the Duzi canoe race and all our Blue Flag beaches, are also critical,” he said.
But city manager Mike Sutcliffe has denied there was a crisis. “That woman, Allison Kelly, has no right to tell us what to do. I find it quite offensive. Our water is perfectly safe. I am writing a letter to Blue Flag international. Unless they remove her, we are pulling out of the programme,” said Sutcliffe. He said Kelly was playing a “political game started” by opposition parties.
“The city scientists are accredited and have done outstanding work and she wants to test the integrity by bringing in independent scientists,” said Sutcliffe.
Umhlanga’s main beach and Westbrook beach still carry the blue flag status, but Kelly said the latter was likely to lose its status soon. She said Hibberdene beach on the Hibiscus coast was doing “fantastically” and was compliant with world-class standards, and Ramsgate, Margate and Marina beaches along the South Coast were prime examples of excellent Blue Flag beaches.
Ndabo Khoza, Tourism KZN’s CEO, said the Blue Flag status was used to attract tourists to Durban. “The impact could be quite serious, because the removal of the Blue Flag has taken away the key marketing edge and it’s a knock on an international level.”
Posted by Poster at 7:35 AM