Durban urged to rejoin Blue Flag programme

2008-11-07 00:00

Even though blue flags — an international symbol of water quality and cleanliness — no longer fly on Durban beaches, the Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) which administers the South African side of the global programme has raised a white flag, declaring they are “keen to work with the eThekwini municipality to get Durban back into the programme.”

This comes after Cape Town and Port Elizabeth took the lead in being home to the country’s premier beaches. This week it was announced that they had a combined total of 19 blue flag beaches while KZN has just four — Margate Beach, Ramsgate Main Beach, Marina Beach and Hibberdene Beach.

In addition, just five of the 16 pilot beaches are in this province — Trafalgar Beach, Umzumbe, St Michaels, Lucien Beach in Margate and Alkantstrand, Richards Bay.

Alison Kelly, the co-ordinator of the Blue Flag programme in South Africa, confirmed that 10 Durban beaches had been withdrawn from the programme but declined to comment on the eThekwini municipality’s decision to implement its own in-house quality control.

International water quality experts have queried limits of 2 000 units of bacteria and questioned the lack of independent verification of both the frequency of testing and results.

The eThekwini municipality’s decision to go it alone followed the withdrawal of blue flag status from four Durban beaches after water tests showed unacceptably high levels of sewage-related bacteria and a lack of cleanliness on some.

Municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe called for Kelly to be sacked and accused WESSA of applying double standards.

Kelly said that just the 35 beaches recognised this week stood any chance of flying blue flags during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Large numbers of fans are expected to make their way to South Africa from Europe where the international Blue Flag programme originated and is held in high regard.

However, it is now too late for Durban beaches to regain blue flag status by 2010. Ironically, Umhlanga Main Beach, which may even exceed standards would have kept its blue flag flying.

Kelly said the success of the Blue Flag programme in South Africa could be attributed to the commitment of participating municipalities.

“Research has shown that the commitment of municipalities to Blue Flag makes sound economic sense. Research on Margate beach, for example, indicates that the value of Blue Flag status at the beach could generate income amounting to tens of millions of rands per annum,” she said.

She added that by 2010 there would probably be eight beaches on the upper South Coast with full blue flag status.

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