Despite the Port of Durban being fully operational following the devastating flooding in KwaZulu-Natal, washed up waste has affected vessel movements since Wednesday.
As of midday on Wednesday, three vessels were unable to berth or sail in the Maydon Wharf precinct, acting Durban port manager Nokuzola Nkowane confirmed on Friday.
"The combined catchment area of the rivers, canals and stormwater drainage systems, that drain into the port, is over 200km squared in size. The unfortunate reality is the port waters are on the receiving end of the large volume of litter, effluent and sewage that is discharged into the stormwater reticulation system within the catchment," she said.
She said the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) at the Port of Durban was making an appeal to the public to come out and assist in a major clean-up of debris, following the devastating floods in the city this week.
Nkowane on Friday said all Transnet Operating Divisions were carrying out assessments to establish the full extent of damage caused by the storm.
"Our thoughts are with all those affected by the recent heavy rains and flooding. We would also like to appeal to the public to please help curb plastic pollution, as this causes huge problems when the debris flows into the harbour," she said.
A clean-up has already begun, with the port authority trying to to remove the large volume of waste and vegetation.
'Progress is slow'
The adverse weather caused the usual deluge of plastic and other debris to flow into the port, leaving behind an unsightly scene just days after World Earth Day was observed globally on April 22.
Nkowane said the port's pollution control teams were on site tackling the debris within port waters, aided by clean-up teams from SpillTech, Drizit and ZMK Enterprises.
"Progress is slow due to the sheer volume of material that still continues to wash in."
The debris included large logs that posed a threat to the safe navigation of the harbour craf which are used to guide vessels safely in and around the port, she added.
Nkowane said everyone had to take responsibility for the well being of the ocean and coastal environment.
"As TNPA, we want to help create awareness and promote sustainable practices for the benefit of present and future generations," she said.
The death toll following the floods since the Easter weekend has jumped to 85, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said on Thursday.
While there are still some search and rescue efforts underway, clean-up operations have commenced in many areas.
How you can help
The port's pollution control department shared the following tips for the public to help in tackling the massive plastic problem:
- Avoid single-use plastic, which is any plastic item used only once, such as plastic straws and plastic packaging. Plastic is a material that lasts for hundreds of years, yet is often used for only a short time before it is discarded.
- Get into the habit of recycling and avoid throwing away recyclable items as part of your normal weekly refuse disposal. Items that can and should be recycled include glass, cardboard and paper, tin and aluminium cans (for example from canned food and cool drink), certain plastics such as bottles for drinks and cleaning products. Items should be rinsed before being put into a recycling bin.
- Get involved in clean-ups, such as those arranged by #CleanBlueLagoon, KZN Beach Clean Up and Durban Bay Cleanup.
- Support organisations such as Durban Green Corridors, Durban Partnership against Plastic Pollution (D-PAPP) and Greenpeace Africa which help to fight plastic and other pollution.