Residents concerned at desalination plant plans
"Emotions ran high at a meeting in Tongaat this week as residents met representatives from Umgeni Water and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to discuss a proposed desalination plant."
Most said they were not trying to frustrate Umgeni Water's attempts to provide fresh water, but they were concerned about the negative impact the plant at Desainagar would have on the environment and the community.
Neal Naidoo said he could not comprehend how the water utility company justified its plan to turn fertile agricultural land into an industrial zone.
'It might be better to find another site up the North Coast rather than sacrifice people's jobs, because I doubt the plant is going to employ the farm workers working on the 7.5ha they want to buy,' he said.
The plant would provide 75 million litres of potable water a day to eThekwini's northern areas and the same amount would be distributed in Ilembe's Dolphin Coast areas, including Zimbali, Ballito, Salt Rock and Shaka's Head.
Members of La Mercy Residents Action Group questioned the impact brine would have on marine life. This was after they discovered that only about 150 million litres a day (Ml/d) of the 330 Ml/d would be processed into drinking water with the rest being pumped into the sea as brine, which would make the sea water far saltier than average.
'Umgeni Water needs to lean more on customers (the municipalities), educating them how they should conserve water and fix leaking pipes instead of doing further damage to our environment. The CSIR must do a thorough investigation on how our marine life will be impacted and present its findings in the next community meeting,' said Betty Rawheath.
People demanded that Umgeni Water bring farm workers to the next meeting, as they were also affected by the planned plant.
Tashya Giyapersad expressed disappointment at the manner in which Umgeni Water handled the matter. She said they were dismissive and showed no sensitivity.
'Seemingly Umgeni Water has decided they are going ahead irrespective of how the community feels. We are not getting any commitment that our concerns would be addressed,' she said.
Les March said he was concerned the plant would devalue his property.
'My other worry is the coastal forest where the pipeline would be put. There are a lot of indigenous trees and birds there,' he said.
Dr Mike Shand of Aurecon Engineers said they had been to the forest and discovered that it was filled with alien trees. There would only be disturbance during the installing of the pipes.
He promised that the pipeline pumping water to and from the sea would not affect the beach as it would be 'way below the surf line'.
'The issues that arose from the meeting have not come up before, and we will take note of them because they have to be included in the application we send to the national water and forestry department for them to decide whether we can go ahead,' said Umgeni Water's Kevin Meier.
CSIR project manager Kavandren Moodley said the public could still lodge comments and view the draft scoping report, which was available at the Tongaat Beach Library in Seatides.