A host of factors killed Durban’s fish’

2008-01-11 00:00

The eThekwini Municipality has given up trying to identify who killed thousands of fish in Durban harbour in December and has instead called for the implementation of an "integrated harbour water quality management plan to sustainably manage this sensitive marine ecosystem".

In a statement released yesterday, city manager Michael Sutcliffe said there were a number of possible reasons for the fish kill, ranging from waste management within the port, and in the catchment that drains into the port to recent heavy rains that could have added to the organic load into the system, and even the illegal connection of industrial effluent discharges into the city’s storm water system.

"The general view is that a multiplicity of interacting factors that led to the state of de-oxygenation in the harbour estuarine water quality caused the fish kill. There is no one organisation or source that could be solely held responsible.

"This type of fish kill is known to have occurred in other parts of the world due to processes of urbanisation and development … We need to develop a better understanding of this sensitive ecosystem," Sutcliffe said.

Although investigations are ongoing, Sutcliffe said the municipality has now moved on to preventing future incidents via a "rigorous system of monitoring, surveillance and reporting together with an early warning system to prevent such a fish kill in the future".

An integrated estuary management plan will be devised and implemented by a host of roleplayers, including the city, the departments of Water Affairs, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (KZN), as well as community organisations, research bodies and business and development agencies.

Desmond D’Sa, head of the South Durban Environmental Alliance, who has clashed with Sutcliffe over the fish kill, yesterday described the municipality’s approach as ridiculous.

"This is crazy. They must find the culprits and enforce the law. This has been going on for a long time."

He said the municipality will not be able to implement or police its integrated estuary management plan.

"How can they do that if they can’t even monitor the air quality and deal with the pollution [in south Durban] or even put in place an emergency evacuation plan?" D’Sa asked.

South Durban residents have complained of high levels of pollution from nearby oil refineries for a number of years. After two massive fires at the Engen Oil Refinery and Island View Storage, residents highlighted the fact that an emergency evacuation plan for residents did not exist.

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