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Members of the public have been urged to stay away from North, Diary, Country Club and Battery beaches.
The city has started emergency sand replenishment and this is expected to continue for the next four weeks.
eThekwini officials said climate change and sand mining are depleting the beach sand.
The city’s deputy head of engineering, Randeer Kasserchun, said the shortage of sand would affect tourism in eThekwini.
“Durban is an artificial beach, we actually pump sand from the south side of the harbour onto the north side. We rely on the natural northern current to transport that material up the coast.
“A beach is required for tourism as well as other purposes … if there is no sand, there is no beach. There is an issue with tourism.”
Kasserchun said that in the last few months the city had suffered severe erosion of sand due to abnormal weather conditions.
“We’ve done studies that have indicated that sand mining is definitely impacted by the amount of sand that’s actually available for us to replenish our beaches.”
He denied that the current shortage was due to lack of proper maintenance of the beaches.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis but it’s basically an emergency. That’s the stance the city has taken. The city has treated this as an emergency and reacted accordingly,” said Kasserchum.