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[LISTEN] Durban’s Tourism Industry Crumbling (Irreversibly?) as Beaches Lose Blue Flag Status

Jan 17, 2022

Umm Muhammed Umar

Radio Islam spoke to the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance’s Desmond D’sa about the critical state of South Africa’s water, in particular the state of the country’s beaches. Several beaches in Durban have been closed because of serious sewage spills into the ocean and rivers, with environmental activists criticizing the eThekwini Municipality of failing to maintain its facilities and pump stations. This has had an impact on health, and on the blue flag statuses of the affected beaches. The Blue Flag status is a prestigious award that attracts people as it an assurance of the quality of the water.

D’sa said that the problem was ongoing. He said that Durban’s “warm beaches attract a lot of people from all over the country. They come to swim and to take the water back. The water is used for medicinal reasons. The traditional healers use it, the surfers use it, fishing folk use the beach as well. And so, this has a rippling effect on everybody.” He said that the tourism industry was being affected, as people were not coming to Durban as the beaches were stinking. D’sa added, “This has been an ongoing problem with the recent explosion and fire we had during June last year, with the UPL issue. He blamed a lack of leadership in Durban, and the fact that the funds that should have been set aside for the maintenance of the sewage infrastructure, the water infrastructure and electricity infrastructure, had not been used on them.

D’sa was outraged that there has not been any effort to maintain the Blue Flag status of Durban’s beaches, knowing that they bring in a lot of money, create a lot of jobs, create enterprises or small businesses – individuals come to the area to sell their products. He said, “When the beaches are clean, when people are visiting, everybody benefits, not only the hotels, but everybody.”  D’sa said that those that the city has made responsible for sanitation, water, and sewage works, should be held accountable. He added that the correct people had not been to do the work: “basically what we see is this – you cannot just put somebody in senior positions, if they cannot do the daily tasks. And if things are happening all the time, there is something stinking in the city of Durban, and that needs to be resolved.” D’sa expressed concerns about people never coming back to Durban, and of authorities showing no indications of remedying the situation.

The sewage problem does not seem confined to Durban’s main beaches, or northern beaches. According to D’sa, it’s also the southern beaches of the city where the problem is not covered by the media.

the media doesn’t even cover those stories of the poor. Areas like nearby when the soldiers in camp on a regular basis. Entire areas such as Merebank are stinking from raw sewage having been dumped, and city officials “do not come through to try and resolve the problems which is affecting people’s houses, to taking the education, it’s affecting people having meals, even on weekends.” D’sa lamented, “The President of this country has acknowledged that things are not happening – service delivery has not been delivered. But he’s not only talking, he’s not doing nothing about it. He’s allowing these people to continue to manage our cities, knowing fully well that the cities are collapsing.”

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