Coast KZN

01 Feb 2021

Report paints grim picture of sand pumping effects at Vetch’s Reef

Mpthathi Nxumalo (Daily News: IOL) Picture: Sand mixed with water spews from the sand distribution pipe between uShaka Marine World and Vetch's Beach. City authorities have cautioned walkers to avoid the area in the immediate vicinity of the outlet pipe

Durban – A report recently released into sand dumping on the ecosystem has received the backing of the Save Vetch’s Reef Association. The report, which the Reef Association said indicated the disastrous effects of sand dumping on the ecosystem, was commissioned by the eThekwini Municipality in Durban, after it came under pressure from the Reef Association.

The research which culminated in the report, was conducted by the Oceanographic Research Institute.

“This same poorly managed sand pumping operation has also left the Moyo’s Pier (in front of the uShaka Marine World) high and dry on many occasions, compromising the aquarium’s water intake points (placed beneath the pier), and prompting the Municipality to propose an insane and costly extension of the pier, wasting an estimated R100 million of ratepayers’ hard-earned money, during a time when South Africa can least afford more wasteful expenditure,” the Save Vetch’s Reef Association said.

Sand pumping operation has left the Moyo’s Pier high and dry on many occasions a report has said. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng /African News Agency (ANA)

They said what was being done by the municipality was “a crime against the environment”. Without any pressure from non-governmental organisations and the public, it was unlikely that any action would be taken to remedy the situation.

“The Save Vetch’s Association urgently want the recommendations from the ORI report implemented and for an independent third party to monitor the sand pumping activities in the future,” the association said.

The report, completed in May last year, but only released six months later to the public, found there should be a reduction in land-based sources of pollution. “Although Vetch’s Reef is artificial, it clearly has biodiversity value and attractive eco-tourism qualities. Consequently, it is recommended that Vetch’s Reef be managed with the goal of maintaining and enhancing its biodiversity,” the report indicated.

And that, if the sand pumping regiments could be returned to their pre-2004 condition, then it was likely the reef would revert to what it was before 2004.

“It is recommended that in general, a pumping regime which delivers a more consistent load of sand over time be adopted. This will allow for less smothering of organisms spatially and temporally as opposed to having episodic pulses of sand which may smother the reef for weeks and lead to mortality of sessile reef organisms,” the report said.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the report made a number of recommendations to limit the amount of sand being pumped in the reef’s vicinity over a short period of time, and they will, when they can, add it to their Sand Pumping Maintenance Management Plan which will be submitted to the Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

“Sand pumping in the Vetch’s basin has been going on for over 60 years and will continue for future decades as it is essential for maintaining the beaches for tourism purposes and for the protection of coastal infrastructure. In discussion with Transnet Port Authorities, who are regular suppliers of the sand, eThekwini Municipality will endeavour to ensure that Durban’s beaches are adequately nourished with sand with the minimum impact on the environment, so that they can be enjoyed by all citizens,” he said.

Mayisela said that a total of 28 species of fish were recorded in 2019, same as in 1994, which suggests that the fish community has not changed substantially, and futher that, Vetch’s reef was not only artificial but also the remnants of an old pier that was built to be a breakwater for Durban harbour.

KZN Department Of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs spokesperson Bheki Mbanjwa said: “The Department has engaged eThekwini Municipality to incorporate the findings from the Vetch’s Reef Biodiversity Assessment (2020) into the Draft Maintenance Management Plan (MMP) for sand pumping on Durban’s beaches.” He said inputs from all interested and affected parties will be considered when approving the final MMP and were waiting for submission of the final MMP for approval.