Home PodcastJulie Alli Sewage Crisis Affecting Various Durban Beaches and Tourism

Sewage Crisis Affecting Various Durban Beaches and Tourism

by Thaabit Kamaar
Photo by [SABC News]


Approximately 60% of Durban beaches have been closed due to the sewage crisis currently facing KwaZulu Natal.

The eThekwini municipality, for some time, has opened and closed beaches along the Durban coastline subject to the levels of E. coli found in the seawater. They have also banned various water activities such as surfing, swimming and fishing.

However, after conducting various water tests and concluding that the water results were acceptable with low E. coli levels detected, the municipality decided to reopen some beaches despite public concern.


Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Damage

The April floods have caused immense damage to the water and sanitation infrastructure in the municipality.

The floods caused approximately R800 million worth of infrastructural damage across various water treatment works resulting in raw sewage flowing into the rivers and oceans.

This infrastructure damage has placed many KZN residents at risk as the sewage-contaminated river water is vital for supply and consumption.

Amid drinking water concerns, scientists at the Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology said there had been positive results in Durban after conducting microbiological testing on the water supply.

Anthony Turton, a water expert, concurs with the statement that South Africa has reliable and “world-class water treatment entities.”

As reported by MSN, the repairs for the sewage infrastructure at The Northern Waste Water Treatment Works, the third largest works in the city, would cost a further R173 million as it is the primary source of sewage flowing into rivers.

However, Turton says money cannot solve the sewage crisis in KZN. The floods have only exacerbated the damage accumulated over twenty years of decay, disrepair, vandalism and state carelessness.

“The problem is not about money. It’s about inappropriate solutions and contracts being given to unqualified people.”


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Effects on Tourism Industry

The closure of the beaches has affected business along the coastline and the province’s tourism industry. As a result, many stand to lose substantial amounts of revenue that they depend on this time of the year.

There are many businesses and tourism operators that invested in water alternatives. However, Turton said it is not a sustainable solution as waste continues to flow into the ocean.

“That, unfortunately, is not an easy fix,” he said. “There’s 835, plus minus, water treatment works in the country and of those 60% are dysfunctional. This is a municipal failure. It’s a failure of the state. It’s a failure of the local authority.”

In the short term, Turton suggests the municipality shut down wastewater works discharging sewage into rivers and fix the damage that has been building for nearly two decades.

He believes it can be done within a few months, provided the state and local authorities make a substantial effort.

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