Desmond D'Sa rallied South Durban's diverse and disenfranchised communities to successfully shut down a toxic waste dump that was exposing nearby residents to dangerous chemicals and robbing them of their constitutionally protected right to a safe and clean environment.
He is the Africa winner of the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world's largest recognition for grassroots environmental activists.
Decades of activism have made some gains, but the expansion of Durban port will wreak new devastation for many communities
Port-petrochemical expansion threat
HELP US TO PERSUADE THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT TO DROP SOUTH DURBAN PORT AND PETRO-CHEMICAL EXPANSION FOR THE BETTERMENT OF COMMUNITIES AND SOCIETY , AND IF THEY DISAGREE LAUNCH DIVESTMENT AND FINANCIAL SANCTION CAMPAIGNS AGAINST TRANSNET, SHELL, BP, ENGEN AND ANY OTHER COMPANY INVOLVED.
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Participation is a farce in South Durban
We want “one consultation on one vision for one development” for South Durban
South Durban residents and allies now campaigning against the port expansion and associated projects are dismayed and outraged at the manner in which stakeholder engagement for the Dug-out Port, the Back of Port Local Area plan and related projects has commenced.
The people who will be affected by this R250 billion project have repeatedly demanded that planning must be interrogated as one holistic public participation process, to create a development vision and plan for an all the people of South Durban. Up until now, the fragmented strategy of government and Transnet has prevented a full perspective on the scope of the project. The result is an extremely high level of alienation by affected residents and a sense that the consultation process is being manipulated.
Hundreds of South Durban people attended the September 1, 2012 meeting in Clairwood where Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mayor James Nxumalo promised a holistic process and full consultation. We then received commitments from the Mayor’s office at the “developmental dialogue” on November 6, 2012, held at Moses Mabhida Stadium, and again on the December 5, 2013 from the Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, that a holistic stakeholder process would be initiated. To date we have no clarity from government about how the one promised consultative process will work. Communities still have to deal with multiple processes.
On the March 12, 2013 we invited the municipal manager, the mayor, the Premier of KZN, the Minister of Public Enterprise, the Minister of Finance as well as Transnet to a meeting on the 20th April. The purpose of this meeting was to initiate an inclusive process and for government and Transnet to present their plans. This invitation was refused.
Instead the ministries of Public Enterprises and Transport hastily organised a ‘community engagement’ on the Strategic Infrastructure Programme-2 (SIP2) on Saturday 13th April at the Austerville Community Hall. In contrast, it seems that a SIP2 engagement with business on Friday 12th was organised well in advance. SIP2 is about the eThekwini-Gauteng transport corridor and the port expansion. The Saturday meeting included Minister Gigaba, KZN MEC for Economics Mike Mabuyakhulu and the Premier’s spokesperson Cyril Xaba, the speaker of the eThekwini Municipality, Logie Naidoo, and Transnet’s Chairperson and CEO, Mafika Mkwanazi and Brian Molefe.
The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) was notified of the community engagement on Thursday 11th.Some organisations aligned to the ANC in Wentworth were informed on Friday evening. No public notices inviting local people were posted in Merebank, Isipingo, Umbilo, Amanzimtoti, and Umlazi or anywhere else.None of the residents’ organisations and community groups from Clairwood, the Bluff, and Wentworth, Umbilo or other settlements were notified. None of the other participants in the campaign against the port expansion, such as Earthlife Africa eThekwini, groundWork or the UKZN Centre for Civil Society were informed of the meeting. Only a handful of people from Wentworth came because they were walking nearby and happened to hear about this meeting. The councillor of Ward 68 was only informed on the morning about a meeting occurring at the community hall.
This meeting was called for 9.00am. It was delayed until shortly before 11.00 when buses started arriving bringing people from other parts of eThekwini. We fully support the principle of an inclusive community engagement that reaches out to all eThekwini’s people. Nevertheless, the impression was created both that the attendance of these groups was organised at the last moment and that, as SANCO members, they were assumed to support the ruling party and the port expansion. However it backfired on government,members of the audience made plain that this is a charade and not public consultation. And from all sides, whether from SANCO or South Durban, they questioned whether these mega-projects will deliver the promised jobs and development.
Minister Gigaba told the meeting he was honouring his commitment to engage the community. This was the commitment made to the South Durban constituencies on December 5th. We believe that this commitment would have been better honoured by accepting the invitation to address the community meeting on April 20th.
Adrian Peters of the eThekwini Municipality then gave a presentationonSIP2 and the port expansion. This made clear that the big decisions are already made. The primary purpose of ‘consultation’ is to get community buy-in. It ignores the enormous opposition that South Durban residents are expressing about the added pollution, the forced displacement of people starting with Clairwood and Merebank, and the likely intensification of real socio-economic problems.
What we need is not only a genuine participation process but one entailing high-employment, community-strengthening development, and which will not impact on peoples’ lives locally or globally through climate change. The plans of Transnet and the municipality will have the opposite impact. The track record of these official planners is appalling, and our city is littered with white elephants, construction corruption and socio-economic neglect as a result.
On 20 April, the community redoubled its efforts to ensure that the concerns of labour, environment, youth, women and all our neighbourhoods are addressed properly. That meeting – to which government and Transnet officials were invited – helped to provide the information and organising that our communities need to resist the R250 billion tsunami of pollution and corporate subsidies. We have survived in South Durban against all odds, and we will continue to demand that instead of a destructive mega-project, our people and environment are allowed to develop in the way we want. We need one consultation for one vision for Durban and South Durban in particular.
This Statements is supported by the following organizations: Clairwood Residents and Ratepayers Association, Bluff, Isipingo, Merebank Residents Association, Earthlife Africa eThekwini, Centre For Civil Society, groundWork, Umbilo Action Group, KZN Subsistence Fisherfolks, Airport FarmersAssociation, Silverglen Civic Association ,Unemployed Movement of Umlazi, Lamontville Informal Settlement, Clairwood Informal Settlement, Folweni , R2Know KZN, Durban Social Forum
Eskom tariff: 16% per year for 5 years!
Read the full memorandum.
Talking Left and Walking Right
Government contradictions abound in port expansion process
Durban, 06 December 2012 – The Durban port expansion is set to be another ‘white elephant’ like Coega Industrial Development Zone in the Eastern Cape, despite government proposing it as remedying Coega’s failure. Falling under the national development framework, the proposed development is planned around an unrealistic 7% annual growth rate. Directly affecting the people of south and broader Durban, the social and environmental costs to society will be high.
Contradictions abound in the consultation processes facilitated by the national and local governments, Transnet and the Ports Authority. National government are touting the multi-billion Rand capital investment in the Port expansion plans, as imperative for positive social and economic development, and especially skills training and job creation. Transnet claim that Durban will run out of container handling capacity by 2019 making the expansion an inevitable reality in the minds of the authorities.
Surprisingly the expansion of the Durban port is being linked to the success of Coega – a ‘white elephant’ of capital projects. It is unacceptable to remedy the failure of one national development with another. Reading in the Daily Maverick, an article by Mark Alix, one could read this has the future of the Durban port expansion: “For a long time, there were gushing reports that South Africa wanted to copy the economic miracles of the Asian tigers by building a multibillion-rand duty-free industrial park at Coega, near Port Elizabeth… But in truth, the R10 billion construction of the Coega industrial development zone (with real cost to date uncertain) is a graveyard for white elephants”.
Whilst a Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIP) Committee has been set up to ensure that Transnet’s technical team is coordinated and engaged in consultation with the community, plans are presented as fact, without any meaningful room for negotiation. These plans have been in development since at least 2006, but at no point has the South African public or directly affected communities been asked if this is the development they want. The CEO of Transnet, Brian Molefe, wants the first terminal of the dig out port to be in operation by 2020, making the 2016 goal for the start of development a not so far off reality.
Despite reassurance from Transnet, communities are concerned that consultation with communities is merely seen as ticking the ‘public participation box’. Over the years, community proposals for the sustainable development of south Durban, and complaints about cumulative pollution impacts and closing off of access to public resources such as the Bay have been ignored. Once again communities in south Durban are voicing their concerns to government that this expansion will only lead to the destruction of the area’s social fabric, people’s livelihoods and environmental health.
Durban Beaches are Highly Toxic!
Durban’s sea water has the highest level of some toxic chemicals in the world according to data released by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research. Eighty per cent of Durban beach water that was tested during the past year did not meet South African water standards, the Independent on Saturday reported. The newspaper reported that the city's beach water fell foul of the SA Quality Guidelines. The tests carried out by the eThekwini municipality's water and sanitation department for the year had revealed high levels of E coli and Enterococcus bacteria, which cause cholera and gastro-intestinal illnesses.
Both the Umlazi Canal and the canalised Isipingo River have suffered from chemical pollution from industry - from illegal dumping, leaching of poorly planned waste sites, and industrial spills and accidents. Mercury and chrome have been found in the Umlazi Canal and the sea. Periodic fish kills attest to excessive industrial effluents, sewerage from informal settlements, and oxygen depletion in the Isipingo River and lagoon. During heavy rains in early 1996, oil from the Sapref Refinery ran into the Reunion Canal and from there into the ocean, and ENGEN has had a similar spill into the Stanvac Canal, and a number of Prospecton industries have badly polluted the Isipingo River and Estuary. Fishermen at the mouth of the Umlazi Canal frequently report a wide variety of odorous and badly coloured waste water flowing from that canal into the Umlazi and the nearby area where they fish.
The Isipingo River, Umlazi River/Canal, and Reunion Canal have high concentrations of faecal bacteria from the dozens of unserviced informal settlements burgeoning in their catchments. Data on water pollution from CSIR and Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) show that these rivers and canals have the highest e coli, other bacterial concentrations, and ammonia levels on the Natal coast. Phenolic contaminants and pesticides also are found from industrial and agricultural pollution, including lead, zinc, and lithium heavy metal contaminants. Indeed, the only highly hazardous (H:H) waste site in KZN is the old waste site between the airport and the Mlazi Cuttings across from Merebank. The Chrome Chemicals factory site itself (adjacent to the Clairwood Race Course) continues to leach chromium in the storm water into the canalised Umlazi River and into the sea.
The hazardous waste landfill that operated in Umlazi until 1996 accepted much of the wastes of nearby industries and 57% of Durban's general waste. The site overtaxed the sewerage processing plant, which feeds into the Isipingo River. Polluted groundwater that extended beyond the boundaries of the site went near to the Isipingo River.
Residents of Wentworth in Durban noticed a noxious smell in their neighborhood 11 years ago. It was seeping into their homes from a storm water drain and, to cut a long story short, it turned out that more than a million liters of petrol had leaked underneath several homes from a rusty underground pipeline owned by the Sapref (Shell/BP) petrol refinery.For these residents it is an on-going event to experience these smells daily. Beaches near to these communities include Anstey’s beach, Cuttings and Brighton beach and residents know that toxins are creeping into these beaches.
These examples clearly show how unimaginably contaminated Durban beaches are. In my opinion dumping of toxic chemicals in the sea, fuel pipe leaks and waste disposal in sea water have only gone worse from the past. Therefore this brings us to the obvious conclusion that Durban beaches are completely unsafe and unclean for holiday makers.
PETROL LEAK RAISES ALARM!
Durban, 13 November 2012 – Today, the environment and health of south Durban residents was again severely compromised by a petrol leak, a month and a half after the previous leak from Engen’s storage facility.
The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) received reports of the leak, seen off the Bluff shoreline this morning. It is alleged that the leak once again originates from Engen at the Cutler Complex. Leaks such as these result in thousands of litres of petrol being expelled into the ocean, affecting the biodiversity of the area and posing as a serious health risk to residents living in the area.
According to SDCEA coordinator, Desmond D’Sa: “This incidence bears witness to the fact that the eThekwini Municipality Pollution Control department and the Ports Authority, Transnet lack the expertise and resources to put in place safety measures to ensure that another leak like this will not occur. They continue to put the health and safety of the marine life and people of south Durban under risk.”
The SDCEA calls on the South African government:
ACT NOW TO SAVE DURBAN BAY!
Transnet have plans to widen and deepen berths in the Durban Harbour to accommodate massive container ships bringing imported goods into South Africa. This will eat into the last remaining sandbanks – crucial for fish nurseries, endangered birds and the health of the bay.
Notice of the Acceptance of Final Scoping Report and Notice of the Review of the draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report:
The Final Scoping Report for the aforementioned project was accepted by the Department of Environment Affairs (DEA) on 27 August 2012.
Review of the Draft Environmental impact Assessment Report (EIR)
The draft EIR is available for public review from 10 October 2012 to 10 November 2012 at the Seafarers Club (1 Seafarers Road, Bayhead, Durban – 031 466 1326) and the Central Reference Library( 10th Floor, Liberty Towers, 214 Dr Pixley Ka Seme Street, Durban – 031 322 4414). It will also be available for download on the public website www.berth203to205expansioneia.co.za
Public open Day
The public are encouraged to come to the Public open Day at their convenience between 10 h00 and 17h30. This public Open Day will take place at the Seafarers Club on 31 October 2012. The project team will be available to answer all queries raised.
Register as an Interested and Affected Party (I&AP) or comment on Draft EIR
Date of publication of notice: 10 October 2012.
A call from Durban to rebuild BRICS...Bottom-Up
Oppose neoliberalism, subimperialism and eco-destruction
23-27 March 2013
Durban’s hosting of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-SA summit next March requires critical civil society to share views ranging from local to global. We support bottom-up unity of peoples in these countries and their hinterlands, collaborating on analysis, advocacy and activism.
Our ‘counter-summit’ – including a community/labour/environmental teach-in on 23 March, Durban reality tours on 24 March, a university-based conference on 25-26 March, and a rally outside the International Convention Centre on 27 March – will draw the world’s attention to the most dangerous BRICS state policies, corporate and parastatal power plays, and these countries’ extreme uneven development.
"In order to protect communities from being exposed to the kind of pollution...it is important and necessary for the public to become actively involved in investigating and, where necessary, opposing proposed industrial activities."
the right to Know,
the duty to Inquire,
the obligation to Act.
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is an environmental justice organization based in south Durban. It is made up of 16 affiliate organizations, and it has been active since its formation in 1996. It is considered successful for many reasons, one of which is that it is a vocal and vigilant grouping in terms of lobbying, reporting and researching industrial incidents and accidents in this area. It contributes to the struggle against Environmental Racism for Environmental Justice and Environmental Health.
Friends of the Earth
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