Project to wake up Dur­ban’s in­ner city

In­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for trans­for­ma­tion plans Life is soon to be a beach in the hol­i­days

Sunday Tribune - - GARDENING - SIPHELELE BUTHELEZI

THE city of Dur­ban’s plan to trans­form the in­ner city has been recog­nised glob­ally. This week, Dur­ban be­came the first African city to win the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of City and Re­gional Plan­ners award for ex­cel­lence.

Dur­ban’s city spa­tial vi­sion and re­gen­er­a­tion strat­egy, which seeks to turn the city into a live, work and play en­vi­ron­ment, is what se­cured the recog­ni­tion ahead of Chi­nese, Bel­gian and Sin­ga­porean cities that were also vy­ing for the hon­our.

Zakhi Mkhize, 36, the in­ner city lo­cal area plan project man­ager, is spear­head­ing the project.

She says she and her team first looked at how best they could re­gen­er­ate the city, a plan was de­vised and it was then ap­proved by coun­cil.

About en­ter­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, Mkhize says Dur­ban was ini­tially among 16 nom­i­nees and that num­ber was whit­tled down to four.

“The best part of it all is that we are the only and the first African coun­try to re­ceive this recog­ni­tion.”

The CBD’S rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing a sleep­ing city will soon be a thing of a past, she says.

“As you can see, the in­ner city is in a state of de­cay, so our pro­gramme is to turn it around to make it more vi­brant.

“We want to make it an in­vestor-friendly en­vi­ron­ment. Cur­rently, the city sleeps at 6pm, which means that is when shops and of­fices close and peo­ple leave.

“When the func­tional part of the city sleeps, it be­comes a crime haven,” says Mkhize.

The award gives the city of­fi­cials an op­por­tu­nity to work with ex­perts from the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of City and Re­gional Plan­ners’ ur­ban plan­ners ad­vi­sory team, who will be vis­it­ing Dur­ban next year.

The in­ter­na­tional ex­perts will bring their knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to share with lo­cal plan­ners in a bid to re­gen­er­ate the in­ner city.

As part of their in­ner-city re­gen­er­a­tion strat­egy, Mkhize and her team are work­ing on ways of eas­ing con­ges­tion in the CBD, which is the re­sult of in­for­mal trading and the in­flux of cars and taxis.

“The cur­rent state of traf­fic in the city, which is car dom­i­nated, doesn’t in­vite peo­ple to walk the streets of the CBD, and taxis oper­a­tors try­ing to draw com­muters add to the chaos.

“We need to in­vest in strate­gies to limit car con­ges­tion on our main streets like Pix­ley ka Seme (for­merly West) and An­ton Lem­bede (Smith) and in­vest in walk­a­ble, friendly streets by pro­vid­ing lanes for cy­cling,” says Mkhize.

“Since we are liv­ing in a warm city, we need to in­vest in green­ing the en­vi­ron­ment so that peo­ple are able to walk on shaded pave­ments and walk­ways.

“Mak­ing sure our pave­ments are bet­ter utilised and not dom­i­nated by in­for­mal trade, which is not or­gan­ised, is an­other goal,” she says.

“Yes, we un­der­stand in­for­mal trade is part of South African life, but we need to ra­tio­nalise and place it in strate­gic points to make sure it pro­vides a ser­vice and is not caus­ing a hin­drance, and is in line with the new ur­ban agenda for the CBD.

“We are plan­ning to ra­tio­nalise the in­for­mal trade and pro­vide ap­pro­pri­ate fa­cil­i­ties.”

Mkhize, who holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in town and re­gional plan­ning from the Univer­sity of Kwazulu-na­tal, says turn­ing peo­ple’s lives for the bet­ter and mak­ing sen­si­ble changes is what she loves most about her job.

“Plan­ning leaves a foot­print so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally and as a plan­ner it al­ways feels good to point at a project and say I con­cep­tu­alised that,” she says. THE sum­mer hol­i­days are an im­por­tant time for the lo­cal tourism in­dus­try and Dur­ban’s beaches are usu­ally a favourite des­ti­na­tion for tourists.

Dur­ing this sea­son the tourism sec­tor re­ceives a huge in­jec­tion of cash which usu­ally runs into mil­lions.

With the fes­tive sea­son around the cor­ner, City Watch checked the readi­ness of some of Dur­ban’s pop­u­lar beaches (North and South beaches) on the Golden Mile.

SOUTH BEACH

The swim­ming pools con­tained de­posits of sand and lit­ter af­ter the storm that dev­as­tated Dur­ban re­cently.

The most com­mon prob­lems for vis­i­tors to this area were the lit­ter and drink­ing in pub­lic. Po­lice were pa­trolling dur­ing City Watch’s visit.

Toi­lets were clean and tidy, toi­let paper was avail­able and the hand-wash soap dis­pensers were op­er­a­tional.

Some of the shower taps didn’t work.

Life­guards were present.

NORTH BEACH

Apart from a faulty sand pump that was also dam­aged dur­ing the re­cent storm, all fa­cil­i­ties at this beach were in good work­ing con­di­tion and had an at­ten­dant in the bath­room, to en­sure all was well. Most show­ers worked. The toi­lets were in good con­di­tion and stocked with toi­let paper and the soap dis­pensers worked.

Life­guards were present and mon­i­tor­ing bathers.

A life­guard, who worked at South Beach and asked not to be named, said sex­ual ha­rass­ment, lit­ter and theft were com­mon in­ci­dents re­ported on the beach. He en­cour­aged par­ents who wished to take their chil­dren to the beach to avoid busy days. The life­guard added that they were al­ready deal­ing with large crowds on the week­ends, but the num­ber of life­savers was in­creased dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son.

An­drew Suther­land, chair­man of the Dur­ban Surf Life­sav­ing Club, which vol­un­tar­ily as­sisted with life­sav­ing ser­vices on week­ends and dur­ing hol­i­days, said they send 12 qual­i­fied mem­bers for beach duty dur­ing the hol­i­days. They also had a re­serve squad to as­sist, if re­quired.

“We have been of­fer­ing this ser­vice for years. We are based at North Beach, but are flex­i­ble to move to other beaches to en­sure the safety of our vis­i­tors,” he added.

In prepa­ra­tion, the city an­nounced it would close parts of South Beach to be­gin sand pump­ing op­er­a­tions as part of rou­tine main­te­nance to en­sure safe beaches that res­i­dents and tourists could en­joy.

NO­TICE ethek­wini Engi­neer­ing Unit’s Coastal, Stormwa­ter and Catch­ment Man­age­ment (CSCM) De­part­ment closed off por­tions of Sun­coast Beach, Bay of Plenty and Dairy Beach on Thurs­day to al­low for sand pump­ing op­er­a­tions for three weeks. Dur­ing this op­er­a­tion, bathing will not be al­lowed in the closed off ar­eas.

Dur­ing the process, the sand from south of the har­bour is dredged and trans­ferred to other beaches through sand pump­ing op­er­a­tions.

Sand pump­ing is part of the core func­tions of the CSCM De­part­ment. ethek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity spokesper­son Tozi Mthethwa said the city took pride in the main­te­nance of the beaches and it was im­por­tant they were ready for the hol­i­days. She added it was com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing a cost-ef­fec­tive, en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able coastal stormwa­ter and catch­ment man­age­ment sys­tem.

Dur­ban cen­tral beaches are ar­ti­fi­cially sup­ported by sand pump­ing op­er­a­tions by the CSCM De­part­ment. There is a se­vere short­age of sand on the beaches, which will be closed for sand re­plen­ish­ment.

As a re­sult, the pro­tec­tion of mu­nic­i­pal in­fra­struc­ture along this coast­line has been com­pro­mised. If sand is not pumped onto these beaches, they may have to be closed for bathing, as the safety of bathers will be at risk.

PIC­TURE: SIBONISO MNGADI

Some of the swim­ming pools at South Beach re­main dirty af­ter the storm.

Zakhi Mkhize with the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of City and Re­gional Plan­ners award for ex­cel­lence.

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