Western Cape has most pipes pumping waste into the sea

18 October 2017 - 09:01 By Claire Keeton
Seventy-seven permits have been granted for waste discharges into the surf zone in the four coastal provinces‚ said Feroza Albertus‚ who was speaking from aboard the SA Agulhas II. File photo.
Seventy-seven permits have been granted for waste discharges into the surf zone in the four coastal provinces‚ said Feroza Albertus‚ who was speaking from aboard the SA Agulhas II. File photo.
Image: Supplied

The Western Cape has the most waste discharge outlets into the surf zone out of the four coastal provinces. 

Seventy-seven permits have been granted for discharges into the surf zone in the four coastal provinces‚ said Feroza Albertus‚ who oversees the subdirectorate Offshore Sources of Marine Pollution at the Department of Environmental Affairs. KwaZulu-Natal has the second highest number of outlets.

Albertus was speaking aboard the SA Agulhas II‚ which sails from Durban for Tanzania on Wednesday as part of the International Indian Ocean Expedition II.

South Africa is spearheading Africa’s first strategic plan for the oceans and chairs the Indian Ocean Rim Association‚ which is holding its 17th high-level council of ministers meeting in Durban this week.

Albertus was talking about human impacts on the marine environment‚ one of six themes South African scientists are exploring during the expedition.

Permits are required for discharging effluent‚ mostly municipal domestic sewage and storm water flow. Industrial‚ fisheries and mining waste is also discharged into coastal waters.

Waste discharge off South Africa amounted to roughly 287 million cubic metres about 10 years ago.

Ocean pollution is harmful for marine life‚ human health and tourism‚ and is also fuelled by plastic litter‚ cigarette ends and oil spills‚ Albertus said.

But pollution is only one of the human impacts on the coast. The increasing number of people moving to the seaside is also putting pressure on the environment‚ said senior environmental affairs official Ryan Peter.

South Africa has one of the highest concentrations of coastal residents in Africa‚ according to the WWF‚ and Peter said: “If you put every person who lived on the coast shoulder to shoulder then they would get 7cm of space per person.”

Roughly 70% of coastal land is in private hands and about 30% is owned by the state. The department polices the encroachment of private landowners on to public beaches.

From the high-water mark to 240 nautical miles out to sea is public land. Property owners may not build fences or other structures in this zone.

Violations cause problems: for example‚ a mother and child got trapped on a beach between the high tide and a fence which should not have been put up‚ said Peter.

South Africa’s Integrated Coastal Management Act of 2009 is a landmark law in Africa with its coordination and protection of coastal resources.

More than half (58%) of South Africa’s coastal and inshore ecosystems and 41% of its offshore ecosystems are threatened‚ the department has reported.

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