Environmental activists speak out against Durban port expansion project

The Port of Durban.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) has voiced its opposition to the Durban port upgrade and expansion project currently being carried out by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and Transnet Port Terminals (TPT).

“The project is about big infrastructure which creates very few jobs for the unemployed masses or opportunities for small business,” SDCEA coordinator, Desmond D’Sa, told FTW Online.

He said that the environmental organisation had several issues with the port project. It objected to the US$200-million loan recently granted by the Brics New Development Bank for the project, and was unhappy about the increase in the number of trucks and hazardous emissions in the area.

This, he said, posed a health risk and would be a “death trap” to children living in the area.

“The project will destroy the biggest marine and bird nursery in the Durban harbour and they have ignored climate change, which has already started to have an impact in the harbour,” added D’Sa.

He said that there had also been a lack of meaningful consultation with environmental experts and residents in the surrounding areas before granting approval of the port expansion project which showed an inclination to “environmental racism”.

“Environmental racism is about developments that undermine the poor and benefit the rich,” D’Sa said. “So poor black and disenfranchised people suffer the most from big infrastructure projects with hazardous trucks increasing and placing their children’s lives at risk.”

He said TNPA and TPT should be looking at smaller economic zones that would create more jobs rather than chasing big infrastructure projects which based the country’s economy solely on imports rather than development.

The SDCEA has been vigorously appealing to major investors in an effort to get them to divest from fossil fuel, which is a large part of the port’s business.

The Durban port project will increase the capacity of the port, which handles around 64% of the country’s seaborne cargo.

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