Hundreds of dead fish washed up in Durban’s Isipingo Beach lagoon over the weekend and environmental activists and fishermen blame a broken sewage pumping station. They are now asking the municipality to act.
In an August 9, 2022 update, the Municipality of eThekwini admitted there was a problem at a pumping station, saying that in the interest of public safety, the Town had decided to ban the access to affected watercourses until the pump station is repaired.
Between January 2014 and November 2020, several media reported hundreds of dead fish on Isipingo beach. Janet Simpkins, founder of local river monitoring group Adopt-a-River, said the city posted about the issue on Facebook, “and if it’s a known flaw, why are bigger have not efforts been made to resolve the root cause of this pollution”.
She said they were witnessing recurring incidents of river pollution, not only in Isipingo but also on the Umgeni River. “These are several pollutants that affect our rivers. It’s not related to the floods because it’s an ongoing thing.
Riaz Khan, former chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Subsistence Fishing Forum, said: “Looking at the moss and the green color of the sand…the sewage is what killed the fish. It’s bad and since it’s not just the small fish that died, it’s hundreds of different species that died. The water is heavily contaminated and there is a strong stench emanating from it.
Khan said this is totally unacceptable as hundreds of fishermen use the area to feed their families.
“The city says people shouldn’t fish or eat fish from the area, but they haven’t made any provision for fishermen who depend on fishing to survive in the area and surrounding areas,” he said. .
Khan said the municipality was unwilling to compensate people who fish there.
“With the unemployment rate rising, fishermen are not looking for handouts…they are using their skills to fish and sell their fish to feed their families. The City cannot take care of its infrastructure and there is no hope for the people who live by fishing in the polluted area.
“I don’t know where the spirit of ubuntu is when hundreds of fishermen have gone home with nothing to put on the table.”
Khan said that since 2014 the municipality has ignored anything that leads to the sea and nature.
“We need to know how long it will take to clean, what chemical is in the water and have there been any tests done. We need the tests to know how far the contaminated water has gone – it’s for our safety,” he said.
He said sewer infrastructure has been neglected in eThekwini Municipality.
Desmond D’Sa from the South Durban Community Environment Alliance said eThekwini needed to do more than just ban public access to the beach as it hasn’t stopped locals from collecting and eating the fish.
“A few of my colleagues have been there for the past few days and a lot of people are picking up the fish. You can imagine the kind of impact fish will have on them if they eat fish,” he said.
D’Sa said there was no sign of a city official, no security, so people were taking the fish.
“We hope to get the government out urgently. We need to put security in place there that will prevent people from picking up the fish and bringing it home to eat,” he said.
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The municipality said in a statement that an investigation to determine the root cause of the pollution is underway. He warned the public to refrain from fishing in the vicinity and from picking up or consuming dead fish during the clean-up operation.
“In the interest of public safety, the City has made the decision to prohibit access to the affected waterways until repairs to the pump station are finalized,” he said. .
The municipality added that “specialised cleaning teams are on site to collect and dispose of fish responsibly”, warning that any contact with the lagoon and sea water should be avoided.
“The City will continue to monitor the water quality of rivers and beaches through sampling and field investigations.” DM/OBP