Minister Mokonyane urges holiday makers to enjoy our coast responsibly

10 December 2018

 

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Nomvula Mokonyane, has urged all South Africans and holiday makers, during this festive season, to “enjoy our coastline responsibly,” while taking into account the duty of care for our coastal environment as prescribed in the environmental legislation. “It is our duty to ensure that we do not litter, do not drive on the beach and accord everyone their right to access public coastal property,” said Minister Mokonyane.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is continuing with a coastal awareness programme to remind us all that we are custodians of our valuable coastal resources. The awareness campaign will focus on among others, coastal and marine pollution, public access to the beach and illegal driving on the beach.

“Members of the public are encouraged to report illegal beach driving and private beaches (exclusive use) including any other illegal activities in the coastal areas,” said Minister Mokonyane. 

One of the issues that the department has to address every year during the festive season is the illegal limitations on public access to the beach. It is unlawful in terms of the The National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, (ICM Act) to implement measures which prevent public access to the beach, not permitted under that Act.  It is only under certain strict circumstances that the public’s access to the beach may be limited. 

The ICM Act seeks to achieve the realisation of the right of access to our natural heritage and recreational benefits to all and in so doing, support growing tourism, recreational fishing and fair access to amenities. In addition, under the Act, no one may charge a fee (directly or indirectly) in order to access coastal public property, without the permission of the Minister responsible for environmental affairs. 

The use of vehicles in the coastal area is generally prohibited. Permits are granted only in exceptional circumstances, for people with physical disabilities for example. The reason for this ban on Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) in the coastal area is to safeguard and protect our coastal environment. The ban of the ORVs in the coastal area is also aimed at balancing and managing conflict that may arise between ORV users and the general public that access the coast by foot. In the past vehicles destabilised and destroyed vegetated dunes. 

The vegetated dunes are important as they absorb the energy generated by waves and storms and protect the area behind them from wave damage and salt intrusion. The vegetated dunes act as a barrier and become the first line of protection for inland areas, homes or property.  The dunes also act as a natural sand reservoir in which they supply sand to the beach during periods of erosion. Vegetation helps keep the dunes stable.

The department is also dealing with pollution along the coast from marine litter, including plastic litter, which has become a matter of increasing global and national concern as a source of marine pollution. Plastics are the cause of increasing ocean pollution, which in turn affects marine life, and consequently humans as well. Human health can also be significantly influenced by marine litter in the form of injuries from debris such as broken glass or indirectly by chemicals, toxins or bacteria in the water. In addition, plastics have been found in a wide variety of fish species that we eat.

Globally, plastic production has reached new highs, with over 320 million tons now being produced annually. Annually the department undertakes a coastal clean-up campaign with the intention to highlight the importance of building an understanding and knowledge of the coastal environment to the community and other marine users.  

Given the difficulties experienced with marine litter, the Department has embarked on a Source-to-Sea initiative that addresses waste management and marine litter from land-based sources. Various stakeholders involved, include academia, government departments, plastic industries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with the interventions to address marine litter in catchment areas before becoming problematic for our coastline and the marine environment. The initiative will scale up litter collection, promote community involvement in waste sorting at source and recycling in cooperation with the private sector.

For media inquiries contact:
Zolile Nqayi
Cell: 082 898 6483
znqayi@environment.gov.za