Recent written parliamentary replies by EDTEA MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube (view here and here) to questions by the Democratic Alliance (DA) have revealed that KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has not conducted any studies to ascertain the impact of plastic pollution on marine sea life, tourism and the marine economy. This while the province also lags behind when it comes to education programmes – despite a budget of R1.5million – with no direct ongoing programmes being carried out to clean beaches.
Of particular concern is the province’s seeming inability to either support municipalities, or devise its own programmes that will secure our beaches and its associated environment. Devastated by plastic pollution after each major rain, KZN’s beaches have simply lost their tourism lustre as litter and sewerage devastate our tourism potential.
The DA’s questions have in essence exposed a dire lack of information on how pollution has impacted tourism with:
- No statistics on the impact of single use plastics on the ecology
- No direct cleaning campaigns
- A long awaited and delayed resuscitation of the Memorandum of Understanding with WESSA on Blue Flag beaches, the green coast and sustainable boating
- A heavy reliance on National Authorities to test water quality and enforce coastal conservation laws and;
- Outlandish claims that 25% of the provinces waste is recycled – a claim that seems to be wildly overestimated particularly as eThekwini, KZN’s largest city, recycles less than 20% of its waste.
While the DA commends the recent oversight by the National Government at tourism hotspots, the responses to DA parliamentary questions in the province prove that the current leadership is not serious about tourism and the environment.
While the MEC has promised that five trash booms will be installed across key rivers to minimise beach litter, the project does not address the dozens of rivers in the province that allow plastic to float into the sea. Quite why it has taken so many years for EDTEA or municipalities to act, even after the devastation, is incomprehensible.
The DA has for many years driven the agenda that clean beaches and well-run ecotourism nodes are an economic driver and job creator. On average, one in every 20 employed South Africans work in the tourism sector, but this is simply the beginning of what can grow into a bigger job bonanza. This is abundantly evident in the Western Cape, where 2.6 million international travellers visited the province in 2018.
The Western Cape’s success was however coupled with several other contributing factors. While KZN’s participation in the internationally recognised Blue Flag beach programme has almost stalled with nine beaches earning flags, the Western Cape has 28 environmentally compliant beaches that fly Blue Flags.
South Africa is in a perpetual tourism war with all nations across the world. If the Premier and his MEC are truly serious about growing tourism – then direct and lasting programmes that help ‘clean and green’ our ecotourism areas are an urgent necessity.