The Trouble with Polluted Seas

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Because by its very nature ocean side property is limited, it has always been bought and sold at a premium. There is something about living or holidaying next to the sea that brings out the best in most of us and coastal properties, particularly those with a good view of the water, are generally regarded as desirable places to live.

South Africa has some of the finest beachfront properties in the world and these have always commanded higher prices than their landlocked counterparts. However, recent reports indicate that all is not well in parts paradise and it appears that the sea off at least two well-known coastal holiday hotspots in KwaZulu-Natal have become severely polluted.

Durban, which lost its Blue Flag status some years ago, is one example. However, it is not the only area that has been affected by inefficient government departments and Margate on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal recently closed its main beach after a sewage spill.

According to a report that appeared in the South Coast Herald, all three pumps at Ugu's Margate waste water treatment plant broke down and millions of litres of raw sewage was washed down the Kongweni River and out to sea. The strong smell of effluent near the main beach in Margate was reportedly unbearable. It is a repeat of the incident in April this year which led to the beach losing its Blue Flag status.

The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) recently revealed that the water at some of Durban's beaches has the highest level of the most toxic chemicals in the world. Although it varies from area to area the levels of e-coli are also fairly high and it would seem that all of Durban's beaches are affected to some extent.

This surely does not bode well for property in the area. After all, what is the point of owning an expensive beachside pad if you are unable to safely enter the water? It is unclear if the pollution problem has affected property prices in these areas as yet, however, one can be sure it will impact in some way if the situation is left as it is. The fact that Margate has been severely affected twice this year alone is a clear indication that something needs to be done as quickly as possible.

Blue Flag beaches undoubtedly add value to property in any given area, however, the criteria which need to be met before the status is granted - and thereafter maintained -are extremely tough. The rules are strictly governed and include regular water testing to ensure that the quality is maintained to levels acceptable by the international, non-profit organisation, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) which runs the initiative on a global basis.

The no nonsense approach adopted by the organisation leaves no room for error and if the water quality is not up to scratch, the beach loses the coveted status. What this will eventually mean to property owners who have bought in an area based on the quality of the water remains to be seen. However, there must surely be repercussions and it is becoming increasingly obvious that the municipalities have to do something sooner rather than later.

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