Why Durban only got two Blue Flag beaches

Ten years after Durban’s ill-fated decision to pull out of the international Blue Flag beach-quality system because of rising sea-sewage pollution‚ the city has only managed to regain a handful of the flags it once flew on local beaches.

The eThekwini municipality only managed to claim two full flags and two pilot-status flags. 
Image: 123/rf/Leon Swart

More than 60 Blue Flags were awarded to beaches‚ marinas and tour boats along the South African coastline at a ceremony on Friday. Nearly half the flags went to the Western Cape‚ with eThekwini municipality only managing to claim two full flags and two pilot-status flags‚ compared to the 10 flags that once flew along Durban’s Golden Mile and other city beaches.

Durban was the first South African city to implement the international programme. However‚ Mike Sutcliffe‚ the controversial former city manager‚ pulled the city out of Blue Flag in 2008 after auditors found evidence of growing sewage-pollution levels in sea water that disqualified several beaches from flying flags to certify compliance with strict water-quality tests and other criteria.

In 2013‚ former eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo reversed Sutcliffe’s decision and announced that Durban would re-enter the scheme. Two years later‚ however‚ a study by University of KwaZulu-Natal researcher Katelyn Johnson concluded that microbiological water quality at most Durban beaches had deteriorated over the previous decade and “it is unlikely that Durban will be a Blue Flag coastline in the immediate future”.

She attributed most of the problems to polluted river and stormwater discharges.

“Durban’s coastline will constantly face challenges due to urban and industrial developments‚ the presence of many waste-water (sewage) treatment works and informal settlements along the rivers‚ and the presence of numerous stormwater drains… Improvement in water-quality monitoring and management is required in order for the city to reach its goal of having a Blue Flag coastline‚” she cautioned.

Speaking at the flag presentation ceremony in Mossel Bay‚ Blue Flag administrators said 66 full flags had been awarded to 46 beaches‚ eight marinas and 12 sustainable tourism boats for the next year.

The Western Cape has achieved the highest number of Blue Flags‚ with 30 beaches‚ 12 boats and seven marinas. Ten of these beaches are in Cape Town.

The Eastern Cape has been awarded one marina site and retained its seven beaches‚ while KwaZulu-Natal has been awarded nine beach flags. Of these‚ two are in Durban (Westbrook and uShaka beaches) and the remainder on the KZN South Coast.

Another 24 beaches across the coast will be allowed to fly “pilot-status” flags‚ with the long-term goal of achieving full Blue Flag status.

The scheme is an international award which recognises outstanding compliance with bathing-water quality and sewage-treatment regulations. It aims to raise environmental awareness and promote sound environmental management of beaches‚ marinas and inland bathing waters around the world.

In South Africa‚ the Blue Flag programme is managed by the Wildlife and Environment Society (Wessa) and participating coastal municipalities.

Ethekwini municipality spokesman Mandla Nsele‚ said he was not in a position to comment immediately.

The full list of new Blue Flag beaches can be viewed here:

https://protect-za.mimecast.com/s/yHAWCY6Y2AI4rGPU0cyXg?domain=wessa.org.za

By: Tony Carnie – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.

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