KZN south coast tourism threatened by water shortages

  • Many residents and business owners in the South Coast region of KwaZulu-Natal say they have been struggling with water issues for nearly a decade.
  • Some are now planning legal action against Ugu District Municipality for loss of income and pain and suffering.
  • The municipality says it has a plan, but budget restrictions are the problem.
  • Get the biggest business stories sent by email every day of the week or go to Front page of Fin24.

How people are suffering because of water supply problems in Ugu District Municipality was aired last week during the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings into the water in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Ugu Ratepayers Association testified that the area has not had an acceptable water supply for nine years. David Watson, its representative, said he was speaking on behalf of a community of around 80,000 people stretching from Hibberdene to Port Edward, but all occupants of the district – some 380,000 people – were affected by the water shortages. He said the region records “nothing less than three days without water” at a time.

Watson said evidence had already been provided during the 2017 SAHRC hearings on the same issue.

South Coast residents and business owners say they are now considering taking legal action against the district municipality.

The south coast thrives on seasonal tourism and agriculture. It includes popular tourist destinations such as Margate, Uvongo, Port Shepstone, Shelly Beach and Port Edward. On the agricultural side, bananas, macadamia nuts, tea tree, sugar cane, timber and coffee are grown for local consumption and export.

But companies say they have lost millions of dollars in revenue due to ongoing water problems. Many have lost hope or do not see themselves lasting much longer, according to Memory-Grace Pieterse, director of Independence Commission Africa. The nonprofit is considering a class action lawsuit that will seek damages for lost income and pain and suffering, alleging “maladministration, corruption and incompetence” in the municipality.

Pieterse received more than 600 responses to a recent petition and questionnaire aimed at assessing personal and professional losses caused by water issues on the south coast.

The most recent bulletin from the municipality indicates that the areas of Marburg, Manaba, Protea Park, Newtown NPS, Port Shepstone and Ramsgate South continue to experience low water pressure or an interruption in water supply due to low storage levels in the Bhobhoyi system due to pipe breaks. . The municipality said water tankers were dispatched to fill communal water tanks located at strategic points in the affected areas.

Professor Anthony Turton, from the Center for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State, and a resident of the South Coast, said the water situation is unstable and erratic. The areas affected stretch from Hibberdene to Ramsgate.

“Once one system is on, another fails. At no time is there 100% water in Ugu,” he said.

He said surprisingly there are no complete schematic maps of the water pipes in the district. “Nobody in the municipality really knows where the pipes go. Nobody knows where they are, how many, how deep they are,” he said.

Meanwhile, the cistern water business is booming. “There can be up to ten tankers at a time waiting at a refueling station near Port Shepstone,” he said.

Vicky Wentzel, director of Southern Explorer, the official tourism publication and marketing body for the South Coast, said tourism operators (such as guesthouses, hotels and restaurants and their related businesses) have had to withdraw from the municipal water system if they wanted to survive. This means either digging a borehole at their own expense or taking water from other companies who have dug boreholes. Businesses cannot rely on the municipality.

Lawyer and community activist Bongumusa Makhathini told GroundUp that several civic groups on the south coast are pooling their resources and building a legal case against the municipality.

In addition to the class action lawsuit led by Pieterse, another avenue is to obtain a judicial review of the municipality for maladministration. Yet another legal course involves litigation over the municipality breaching the residents’ constitutional right to access water and for violating the Water Services Act.

We sent detailed questions to the municipality last week but received no response.

But the Municipality of Ugu states on its website: “Our municipality continues to face serious delays in the maintenance and rehabilitation of the infrastructure necessary to provide drinking water and sanitation services, due to serious financial and capacity constraints”.

“Over the past two years, we have experienced supply interruption issues in the district due to water infrastructure failure at key infrastructure points. We recognize the need to respond immediately to water supply interruptions. in the district to stabilize the water supply which impacts communities, businesses and tourism. Efforts have been delayed by insufficient funding for repairs and maintenance of critical water infrastructure .

It then lists the short, medium and long-term “interventions” to solve the problems.

About Derrick Hill

Check Also

Why we are launching a consultation on a visitor’s tax for Wales

//= do_shortcode(‘[in-content-square]’) ?> Cefin Campbell and Rebecca Evans. Pictures of Senedd Cymru Rebecca Evans, Welsh …