“A ban on driving vehicles on beaches will not be reconsidered, says water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.”
“Neither the prohibition nor the restriction of the recreational use of vehicles is being reconsidered due to the positive impact it is having on the ecology of the South African coastal zone.”
So says our esteemed Minister Edna Molewa, as reported in The Star on the 17th July 2012.
As an avid beach user of some 30 years I would like to question where it is that our esteemed minister gets her facts.
Since the introduction of the beach ban I have continued to walk and fish on most of our Zululand beaches and would like to point out both the positive and the negative aspects of this law.
On the positive side:
1. I have the beaches to myself. 400 kms of Zululand Beach, and I am alone.
2. Provided I am prepared to walk I can catch more resident reef fish. These I return to the sea as I am a responsible angler and do not want to deplete the resident species.
On the negative side:
1. An increase in crime. Crime was always there, but without a vehicle to provide for escape from the criminals, they are becoming more brazen. Leaving a vehicle and walking has become an absolute “no no” on at least 70% of our Zululand Beaches.
2. Where there is safe walk on access to our beaches, overcrowding has become the norm with users all fighting for the same space. Swimmers have to contend with boat launchers, fishermen and surfers all in the same space which leads to conflict and an unpleasant experience all round.
3. During the hot summer months over the Christmas season, the sand on the Zululand beaches gets so hot that it is impossible to walk on. Tourists are expected to walk onto the beach through this hot sand carrying sun umbrellas, picnic hampers, deck chairs, clothing, fishing equipment and screaming children. It doesn’t happen more than once.
4. Due to limited beach access, many tourists are leaving the Zululand beaches in favor of more accessible beaches.
During my long walks on the beaches I have made the following observations:
1. The dune formation has remained the same. The dune vegetation is the same and the dune growth is at the same rate. Nothing changed.
2. The bird life has remained the same. The oystercatchers at Mapelane, Cape Vidal and Sordwana Bay are still there. The sanderlings come and go with the migratory seasons. The White Fronted Plovers still lay eggs and raise their young. There has been no change in the numbers or their habits.
3. Goast Crabs are prolific. The numbers that we see on the beach still fluctuates depending on tide, wind and time of day. Nothing has changed.
4. The mussels on the rocks have gone. This is I believe due to reduced “eyes on the beach” which has in turn led to an increase in poaching.
My questions to the Minister are:
1. Where do you get your information?
2. When did you last walk on the beach in midsummer?
3. Do you actually have proof of this “positive impact it is having on the ecology”?
4. Why can we not have controlled vehicle access?
Please could I suggest that we investigate and institute a practical program of controlled beach vehicle access, a program that is based on sound training, driver licensing and driver permitting. What is the point of having 4000 kms of the most beautiful beaches in the world if no one can see them?