Dune Destruction at Umgababa

After the good work that the municipality has been doing to regenerate the dunes on Durban’s beachfront, I was unpleasantly surprised to find this link on Coastwatch’s Facebook page.

Fishermen who use the beach at Umgababa are shocked at the systematic destruction of indigenous vegetation on sand dunes in the area. The devastation is clearly visible from the R102 on the way to Umkomaas. The surface area of a large dune is completely bare of vegetation. The dune is accessible through the Umgababa railway station, via  a side road and over the railway tracks.

“Huge machinery is being used to level and clean a huge area for what appears to be preparation for a building,” said one fisherman, who did not want to be named. They alerted conservation services to the dune’s decimation, however they were reluctant to attend to the matter. “A few hundred metres down the road, a house has been built on the sand dunes, basically on the beach. When this practice was prevalent in

the Transkei, cottage owners were told to knock down structures and to rehabilitate the sand area. Some were locked up in jails and fined for this transgression,” said the fisherman.”We want to know whether what is going on here is legal.  What is the difference between the cottages in the Transkei and here? What is the difference between us parking on the beach and a huge machine decimating and destroying prime dunes and vegetation, which is home to thousands of little animals and insects and is almost certainly protected reserve land?” The SUN contacted Ethekwini Municipality. The coastal engineering department  said it is aware of the issue and is investigating.

In a guide published after the 2007 coastal storms (Breetzke T, Parak O, Celliers L, Mather A, Colenbrander Dr (eds) (2008) Living with coastal erosion in KZN: a short term, best practice guide. KZN Department of Agriculture and Environment Affairs) it states environmental authorisations are required for basic assessments and full environmental impact assessments related to coastal management.

The National Environmental Management Act requires the appointment of an environmental practitioner to undertake the basic assessment for:

* Construction or earth moving activities in the sea or within 100m inland of the high-water  of the sea.
* The prevention of the free movement of sand,  including erosion and accretion, by means of planting vegetation, placing synthetic material on dunes and exposed sand surfaces within 100m of the high-water mark.
* Any dredging, infilling, removal or moving of sand exceeding 5m³ from a river or estuary.
* The removal or damage to indigenous vegetation of more than 10m².
* The excavation, moving, removal, depositing or compacting of soil, sand, rock or rubble covering an area exceeding 10m³.
A full environment impact assessment under the same Act is required for construction or earth-moving activities in the sea or 100m inland of the high-water mark.

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