15 March 2005

Peninsula's beaches at risk - report

The Cape Peninsula's coastal dunes are under serious threat from development that has encroached too close to the beach.

The dunes, the most important and fragile part of the coastal ecosystem, have also been heavily damaged by vehicles and pedestrians.

If something is not done urgently to halt the destruction and to rehabilitate the dunes, the Peninsula will see a loss of many rare coastal habitats and species, increased erosion and wind-blown sand and a coastline that is constantly shifting and unstable.

The City of Cape Town's state of the coast report, released last week, said there was an urgent need for the council to intervene.

The areas where the dunes have been most severely damaged are Blaauwberg's central beach, the dunes near Milnerton golf course and Milnerton lighthouse, Hout Bay, Glencairn, Bluewaters, Mnandi, Swartklip and the stretch from Wolfgat Nature Reserve to the Eerste River mouth.

The report rated the urgency for taking action at these beaches as "very high".

These areas include Woodbridge Island beach, the area south of Milnerton lagoon mouth, Kommetjie, Witsands, Fish Hoek beach, Strandfontein, Strand and Gordon's Bay.

Development too close to the beach at Blaauwberg and Milnerton had meant there was very little room left for dunes, with the result that wave action was eroding the beach and infrastructure.

The report recommends a "radical new plan" for Macassar Pavilion.
It says the council should spend no more money on the pavilion and recommends that it be demolished.

The railway line was a major cause of dune destruction at Glencairn beach and Fish Hoek.

As an emergency plan for Glencairn, straw bales and kelp should be placed at the worst affected areas, while a single management plan had to be established between the city and Metrorail for dune management at Glencairn and Fish Hoek.

An added problem at Fish Hoek involved buildings being erected too close to the beach which had also destroyed dunes.

Extensive development and uncontrolled pedestrian access had destroyed dunes at Gordon's Bay and Strand, while alien vegetation and pedestrian trampling had contributed to dune destruction at Hout Bay, Glencairn, Bluewaters, Swartklip, Wolfgat, Kommetjie, Witsands and the Strand.

Vehicles had destroyed dunes at Bluewaters, Mnandi, Swartklip and Wolfgat.

The report says the dune system had taken the worst hammering by urban development on the city's coastline, and natural coastal processes had been transformed as a result.

"Coastal dunes are some of the important, sensitive and fragile components of the coastal ecosystem," the report says.

"They provide unique habitats for a range of species and play a major role in regulating natural coastal processes, particularly that of wind-blown sand movement."


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