Catastrophic oils spill endangers Durban’s fragile ecosystem

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is horrified by the catastrophic crude oil spill from a Transnet pipe into the Umbilo River. The crude oil has now meandered down to Durban Harbour and can be seen as far afield as Battery Beach in Durban Central.

DA councillors Melanie Brauteseth, Gavin Hecter and eThekwini Caucus Chief Whip, Thabani Mthetwa, conducted a brief oversight to the site of the oil spill and were greeted with the horrific site of thick black oil permeating the river and its banks. Spill-Tech were on-site to fix the pipe and contain the spill.

The already severely compromised Umbilo river ecosystem which has been the site of major sewage spills and industrial pollution now faces complete ecocide. The impact on the ecosystem, wildlife, and communities dependent upon the river is unknown at this point.

The DA will ensure that eThekwini Municipality and KwaZulu-Natal provincial authorities hold Transnet to account. An immediate investigation must be undertaken into the allegations of Transnet’s ailing pipeline infrastructure as the cause of the oil spill. An environmental assessment of the damage must be commissioned and a plan for the rivers’ rehabilitation drafted, in consultation with environmental experts, to save the Umbilo River.

The devastating impact of the oil spill could take years to remedy. A disaster of this scale should never have been allowed to occur and we must ensure there are no repeat incidents. The ongoing pollution of our waterways is a crisis that has been unfolding unabated in all of South Africa’s provinces for many years.

The DA has submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, requesting her department’s plan to address the ecocide of South Africa’s rivers. South Africa is a water-scarce country and we cannot afford the destruction of our precious fresh water sources that many communities depend on.

Minister Creecy’s department needs to urgently step in to assist provincial and municipal authorities to fulfil their mandate as there seems to be chronic incapacity to protect our rivers. Government must uphold the people’s constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their well-being, as well as the preservation of the environment for future generations.

The DA call on Minister Creecy to urgently convene a meeting with the Department of Water and Sanitation and the Department of Health to devise an emergency plan to save South Africa’s rivers. This is a necessity not only to protect our vulnerable communities and natural heritage, but is also an integral part of South Africa’s climate resilience strategy.