Howick Falls’ state 'a concern'

2019-07-09 16:58
Complaints have been received about litter not being picked up at the Gorge Walk.

Complaints have been received about litter not being picked up at the Gorge Walk.

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Concerns have been raised that the poor state in which the Howick Falls precinct is maintained will continue to chase away sightseers unless something is done.

The derelict structure at the Gorge Walk entrance has become a haven for drug addicts, prostitutes and criminals to hide their loot, said a shop owner, Sandi-lyn Nield. Hobos who also sleep in the building light fires which they leave unattended and could become dangerous.

Shop owners in the area are fed up because business is being adversely affected by the neglect. Nield said that the vagrants urinate and defecate wherever they please, which leaves a repulsive stench in the air. Litter is another problem, among many others.

At the Gorge Walk, the vagrants are destroying the paths and stealing the historical rocks that are used as stepping stones, she said. The railings to hold onto are also being destroyed. Recently, she said, two children had fallen while walking there because they had nothing to clutch onto.

Nield added that the problems extend to the bush where tyres are being burned and trees cut down. She said that a group of people who set up camp at the bottom of the falls have doubled in number.

“That group at the bottom were slaughtering goats … it’s now a fine line between traditions and heritage,” she said.

They can be seen from the viewing platform where tourists view the falls.

“It is bad enough that we have women washing clothes at the top of the falls and drying them on the rocks, but the damage caused down below in the national park is tragic,” she said.

The unoccupied Gorge Walk structure has become a haven for miscreants and vagrants who also make fires in it.

Recently, some foreign visitors had complained to her about how derelict the falls area has become compared to when they previously visited the area five years ago.

Nield blames the municipality for all the problems and its lack of policing.

Councillor of the area, Hazel Lake, also said it is disappointing that the municipality lacks interest in the area.

Last year, a petition was signed caling on the municipality to enforce its by-laws, but nothing has been done.

“The municipality talks about tourism as an economic driver but they don’t do anything to promote tourism. They say they have no resources, but they just put a new air conditioner in the mayor’s office and furnished some offices,” she said, adding it had money for selective purposes.

She said that the municipality should enforce its own by-laws which will bring about change.

uMngeni Municipality spokesperson Thando Mgaga said the municipality tried to get an interested company to reinstate the derelict building, known as the Gorge Walk structure, but this did not happen.

However, council intends to advertise this current financial year for interested parties to reinstate and operate from the premises.

He said that employees from the waste management unit attend to litter in the falls area daily. Due to manpower and financial constraints, the municipality is unable to attend to the Gorge Walk on a continual basis, therefore it is maintained only on a “regular” basis. Nevertheless, the relevant personnel will be made aware of the shop owners’ concerns to ensure that they enhance their efforts at keeping the precinct in good condition on a more regular basis.

Mgaga added that the municipality was not aware of the removal of stepping stones and handrails being “stolen”. However, it is aware of the need to replace the wooden slats over the bridges, which will be attended to in this financial year. He said regular patrols take place by officials from environmental health, the traffic department and police in the falls area. Any structures being erected are removed.

“To date, no structures or people living at the bottom of the falls have been detected during these patrols,” he said.

Mgaga said the municipality was also not aware of the burning of tyres and trees at the bottom of the falls.

“Council is aware of the socio-economic problems facing the shop owners and tourists of the area and will be addressing the issue. However, due cognisance must be taken of the current economic climate facing business at present,” said Mgaga.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  howick falls
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