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Umhlanga beachfront. Photo Credit: Philip Wilson (Independent Newspapers)
Ansteys (Bluff), Umhlanga main and Westbrook on the North Coast will be eligible to boast full world-class quality status should they consistently meet Blue Flag standards.
eThekwini now has seven beaches with pilot Blue Flag status. The first four were announced last October: uShaka, eMdloti main, eMdloti tidal pool and Umgababa.
It has been a slow but welcome return for Durban to the programme, following former city manager Michael Sutcliffe’s controversial decision to withdraw from it in 2008.
Many of eThekwini’s Blue Flag beaches had been unable to comply with the stringent Blue Flag criteria because of high readings of sewage bacteria in the water.
The list of South Africa’s 45 Blue Flag beaches for this year was announced in Knysna earlier this week, and included KZN newcomers Pennington (under the Umdoni municipality) and Blythedale (KwaDukuza municipality) – both of which were awarded full Blue Flag status.
Ted Knott, the coastal programme manager of the Wildlife and Environmental Society of SA (Wessa), which manages the programme, said that apart from it playing a strong role in promoting environmental education and biodiversity conservation, it was of national significance to tourism.
“The Blue Flag has become a symbol of quality recognised by tourists and tour operators. It is able to provide holiday-makers world-class beaches offering safe, clean and well-managed facilities,” he said.
Each KZN coastal municipality is now involved in the programme, with either full or pilot status.
To achieve Blue Flag status, as many as 33 criteria spanning four aspects of coastal management must be met: water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management and safety and services. Last year, The Mercury reported that eThekwini officials were taking a slow and progressive approach in re-entering the programme, to ensure that all beaches participating were able to comply with the strict standards.
This year, eThekwini did not apply for full status for any of its beaches. Knott said the pilot status might apply for up to two years.
A total of 26 KZN beaches were awarded either full or pilot status, and Wessa has committed to working closely with the municipalities of the pilot-status beaches to help them achieve full status next year.
Phillip Sithole, the head of Durban Tourism, said the awarding of Blue Flag pilot status came on the back of Durban gaining a number of bragging rights – including being named one of the top 10 most underrated cities in the world by CNN.
Durban had become a destination of choice for international visitors, particularly for its beaches. More affluent tourists were particularly “picky”. Umhlanga was a major local attraction for the latter.