24 May 2005

Man-made reef will bring huge waves to Durban

Durban is to build Africa's first multi-purpose man-made reef 150m off its shores to create giant waves. This will put the city among the trendsetters of international tourism.

Similar features have injected new life into other surfing beaches, and almost overnight turned Carlifornia and western Australia's Gold Coast into major surfing destinations.

Another reef has been proposed for the coast off Dubai.

The R10-million construction will follow the R24-million development of the old Sea World Aquarium site at Wedge Beach, which will expand the beach to the size of two rugby fields. It is hoped that that will resuscitate beach soccer and volleyball at the beachfront.

The old aquarium development will start next month. The reef is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.

But the reef's architects will first have to convince environmental groups that it will have only a minimal effect on marine life and that it will not promote sedimentation in any other part of the beachfront.

The architects are Australian reef designer Angus Jackson, who designed the Narrow Neck surfing reef in Brisbane on the Gold Coast six years ago, and the eThekwini Municipality's coastal engineers.

They will also have to show that the synthetic material that will be used to make the reef will promote and create a new home for marine life.

Environmental groups will have their say on the idea when it undergoes an environmental impact assessment.

Di Dold of the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa said that environmentalists would support the plan as long it did not affect marine life or cause an erosion of sand from the beach.

Andrew Mather, the city's coastal engineer in the office of City Manager Mike Sutcliffe, said the principle of the proposed reef was to create the wave break in "a uniform and controlled manner".

"This means that it will allow surfers to ride high waves for longer distances before they start breaking," he said.

He said the reef would turn Durban's beachfront into a safe haven for surfers, snorkellers, and body and kite boarders, but would lead to motor boats and spearfishermen being banned to eliminate the risk of damage to the reef's structure.

The reef and the development of the aquarium site will be the first modifications of the beachfront since the introduction of the paddling pools and the paving of the promenade in 1980.

If the reef gets approval, a Durban company will start stitching bags of synthetic fabric, which will each be loaded with anything from three to 30 tons of sand.

The giant sandbags will then be dumped into the ocean at least 150m from the shore in a line that is expected to stretch for more than 1km. The long heap, about 5m high is expected lie no more than 1m below the water level.

The bulk of the funds for the almost R35-million development will be footed by the council. The private sector is expected to supply retail businesses and tourism ventures.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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