By Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL, DA KZN Alternate Spokesperson on Health:
THE DA calls on KZN’s COGTA department to ensure that municipal officials responsible for the maintenance of two South Coast sewerage pump facilities – which this week spilled effluent into local river estuaries – face criminal charges.
The spills, which have led to the closure of Margate’s Main Beach and the Blue Flag Lucien Beach, come after years of failed maintenance by the municipality.
This week pumps at both the Bhilanhlolo River in Ramsgate and Nkongweni River in Margate began leaking sewerage into the estuaries at these two tourism towns.
Yesterday a decision to open the Margate estuary was taken at a meeting between the Ugu District Department of Water Affairs, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Ezemvelo. This was in spite of opposition by the local community.
The move has caused the toxic effluent to flow on to local beaches, leading to closure of the Margate and Lucien beaches.
According to reports, the Ramsgate sewerage pump has supposedly been fixed. However, no estuary rehabilitation has taken place.
The DA is extremely concerned by the situation.
These areas are hugely dependent on tourism for job creation and the end result could mean job losses.
The spill also poses a severe health danger to beach goers and local communities alike with the risk of diseases such as diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, hepatitis and cholera.
While the beaches have been closed the organic and inorganic toxins in sewerage can linger in the environment. Unless an immediate clean up strategy is put in place, communities and tourists could be at risk for weeks after the visible effluent has dispersed.
The DA sincerely hopes that health education and a disease monitoring strategy will be enforced.
We also expect KZN’s Cogta department to act without delay and to ensure that the Department of Environmental Affairs urgently implements a clean-up plan before this year’s holiday season begins.