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Durban ecological disaster pending as beaches plagued by E.coli

by Zahid Jadwat

Environmental activists have once again rang the alarm on an impending ecological disaster in Durban. This came as the city shut 11 beaches due to high levels of E.coli, just before the holiday season.

Speaking in an interview on Salaamedia, environmental activist on water and climate change Dr Ferrial Adam warned that neglect of wastewater treatment – a major cause of high levels of e.coli – would come at a high cost. This cost, she suggested, would be “dead” rivers.

“If you have too much sewage flowing up your rivers and streams, you’re basically killing the river ecosystems. Everything, from the birds to the frogs to the little fish, the plants, the trees. If you kill off the entire river ecosystem, you’re going to create a river that’s going to be dead.”


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The eThekwini Municipality initially closed six beaches. This was then revised to 11 following a subsequent test done on 7 December.

“[There were] 11 beaches closed with poor results, including six jointly sampled … out of 23 bathing beaches,” said eThekwini spokesperson Gugu Sisilana on Tuesday, according to News24.

This will not be the first holiday season that local businesses in Durban will take a knock from beach closures caused by high levels of E.coli. Adam said the results were “not shocking”, but the symptom of crumbling wastewater infrastructure.

“People know it’s been going on for the last year or so. The waste and the sewage that they’re supposed to clean before releasing water into the rivers and streams is not happening,” she said.

As a result, she said, “You are getting raw sewage that is flowing into our rivers, streams and beaches across the country. There’s no place that’s not touched – even Cape Town has this problem”.

The eThekwini Municipality earlier stated it could not afford to repair infrastructure damaged by floods in 2022. But, said Adam, “That’s not true. They can find the funding. They can look at … a grant [from] Treasury. They need to ring fence that grant so that they use it on infrastructure and that’s not happening at the moment”.

She further called for more regular testing and a swift response by the municipality when citizens reported sewage spillages or burst pipes.

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