- The Impact and Sustainability of Coastal Development on the South-East Coast of South Africa    click here to open paper content427 kb
by    McLachlan, Gavin | araggm@upe.ac.za   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
This paper deals with the impact of coastal holiday houses and settlements on the infrastructure and ecology of the South-East coast of South Africa.
The South-East coast of South Africa is renowned for its great natural beauty, its diversity of environments and its mild climate. This coastline, stretching for around eight hundred kilometres, ranges from the Mediterranean climate of Hermanus in the West, with its hot dry summers and cool wet winters, to the sub-tropical climate of East London in the East, with warm humid summers and mild winters. The range of coast types is equally diverse with rocky shelves and cliffs predominating in the West and sandy beaches in the East. This coastline is a high-energy coastline with nothing between it and the great Southern Ocean; wave action is often very dynamic, completely different to the sheltered Mediterranean. The study area includes around forty-three river mouths or tidal estuaries, all of which play the important ecological role of nursery for many forms of marine life.

The ongoing development of cities, towns and villages along this coastline is a striking feature of South Africa’s history in the latter part of the twentieth century. As the population has increased and as the economy has developed there has been more and more urban and rural development along this coast. This development has taken many forms, but is characterised by the following types of development in particular. The development of a forestry industry based on the growth of very large plantations of exotic conifers for use in the construction and paper industries. This forestry industry has had a substantial impact on indigenous vegetation and on the hydrology of the region. The development of fairly intensive agricultural practices throughout the region that have also impacted on the ecology of the coast. The development of large-scale industries at selected sites along the coast with their attendant urban growth, often related to the larger urban centres along the coast. The proliferation of holiday houses and recreation related developments along the entire coastline.

This development of coastal holiday and recreational accommodation and facilities is one of the most striking features of the South-East coast. Even the most remote stretches of coastline have shacks and holiday houses. These shacks and houses range from the old-fashioned and fairly relaxed to the most imposing and elaborate structures. Some of the holiday settlements are fairly old, quaint and relatively informal, while others, usually the newest, are highly co-ordinated and comprehensive. Many of the newest developments are in the form of gated communities with a high degree of security access control. A large number of these facilities are concentrated on and around the ecologically sensitive estuaries because of the safe bathing that they provide.

The economic hub of South Africa is the Gauteng urban region, with Johannesburg and Pretoria as core cities. There is thus a large and fairly affluent population that lives inland, far from the sea, and that wants to play at the sea shore and has the means to do so. Nearly all coastal holiday settlements experience the seasonal ebb and flow of their transient populations. Over the main summer holiday periods (in the Southern Hemisphere these are the Christmas/New Year holiday and the Easter holiday), their populations swell by between two to eight hundred percent, placing enormous strain on a limited infra-structure and fragile ecology. Water supply, sewerage treatment, waste disposal and transport all come under immense pressure for one and a half months while for the rest of the year they are under-utilised. Paying for this skewered use of facilities is also a major problem. In addition, ecological resources come under severe pressure during peak periods and the viability of many environments and species is threatened.

This paper will examine the issue of coastal holiday settlements along the South-East coast of South Africa in some detail and will describe and evaluate attempts to manage the impact of these settlements on the coast especially the seasonal nature of their usage.


Relevance to conference theme.
Deals with important ecological and environmental sustainability issues.
Has both a regional and an international relevance.
Coast, Sustainability, Development
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