Durban’s estuaries: current status, threats and future

Cameron McLean

Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, eThekwini Municipality


Estuaries, by virtue of their position at the end of catchments are subject to a range of direct and indirect threats. Among the most serious threats facing estuaries are the impoundment of rivers and abstraction of freshwater, accelerated sedimentation as a result of insensitive catchment activities, eutrophication as a consequence of nutrient enrichment, chemical and organic pollution, habitat loss, introduction of alien species, and the direct exploitation of resources (e.g. sand mining and over-fishing). Medium sized cities (population of 1-5 million) are experiencing the greatest rates of urbanization, leading to rapid transformation and degradation of natural areas. Aquatic ecosystems within the City of Durban are currently on a trajectory of major ecological decline. In 2009, a study entitled “Estuaries of Durban” was completed by Marine and Estuarine Research that provided in many cases baseline biodiversity and ecosystem health data for the 16 estuarine systems within the greater Durban area. This paper draws on information presented in the “Estuaries of Durban” report and takes a closer look at the major threats and challenges facing estuarine systems in Durban. In addition, the role of the EThekwini Municipality in estuarine management and associated projects are discussed.

Presentation Topic

Durban’s estuaries: current status, threats and future

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