||What did Hurricane Sandy teach us a week ago, here in South Durban (where I live), as R250 billion is sunk in vast new port capacity and a new dug-out port on the old airport land, plus tens of billions more in petro-chemical expansion?
Not much, judging by the class dunces I met during Transnet’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which last Wednesday included an Open Day at the Seafarer’s Club. As Africa’s largest port, Durban is facing stiff competition from Maputo for shipments to Gauteng, and perhaps soon from Coega near Port Elizabeth as a regional freight hub. Transnet and eThekwini municipal officials are reacting like clumsy dinosaurs.
Sandy was brilliantly profiled in the London Review of Books on Saturday, in an article by Mike Davis entitled “The repo girl is at the door,” referring to the ‘repossession man’ sent by the banker to collect a debt. “The construction since 1960 of several trillion dollars’ worth of prime real estate on barrier islands, bay fill, recycled swamps and coastal lowlands has radically transformed the calculus of loss. Subtract every carbon dioxide molecule added to the atmosphere in the last thirty years and ‘ordinary’ storms would still collect ever larger tolls from certifiably insane coastal overdevelopment.”
There is no ‘ordinary’ any more. As Davis concludes, “Sandy is the beginning of the race for the lifeboats on the Titanic.”
Last week’s storm also accelerated climate damage, with around R300 billion worth of property destroyed in the northeastern US, about the same cost as the 2010 flooding in Pakistan and as droughts that wiped out world grain crops in between. The toxic water reminds of the Durban port’s closure last month due to repeated oil leaks into the harbour.
As oceans warm, cyclones and hurricanes also amplify, exacerbated by sea-level rise. “The volume of Arctic sea ice has been reduced by 75 percent in just 30 years,” reports the world’s most respected climate scientist, James Hansen of NASA, speaking last month to the Cornell University Global Labor Institute. “There is a danger that the ice sheets will begin to collapse and we could get several meters of rising sea levels in one year.”
At that rate, big parts of central Durban would sink, along with other cities where coastal sprawl has left millions in low-lying danger: Mumbai (2.8 million inhabitants exposed as sea waters rise), Shanghai (2.4 million), Miami (2 million), Alexandria (1.3 million) and Tokyo (1.1 million).
We recently had our own Sandy cyclone, when on 19 March 2007, according to marine expert Andrew Mather, “wave run-up heights were measured at twelve beaches along the Durban and Ballito coastline and these peaked at 10.57 meters above Mean Sea Level,” wrecking billions of rands worth of beach infrastructure.
Yet two months ago, I got a blank stare from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan when I asked about climate over lunch. Gordhan visited South Durban’s vulnerable Clairwood suburb next to the harbour. Gordhan spoke to an angry residents’ meeting; the little suburb will be squashed by trucks associated with the rezoning that will facilitate creeping Back-of-Ports growth. Nine Clairwood and Bluff residents have been killed in recent years by crazed truck drivers.
Raising the volume of containers trafficked through South Durban annually from two to 20 million is the neoliberal planners’ zany objective, as our economy’s vulnerability to globalization and inability to produce our own competitive products both worsen. Rising capital intensity at Transnet and trade-related deindustrialization will probably result in net employment loss comparable to the post-1994 jobs massacre here.
Moreover, firms like Nemai Consultancy and Graham Muller Associates working for Transnet and the city don’t mention climate change in thousands of pages of high-priced reports, either regarding the overall plan or its first stage: a R4 billion berth reconstruction that will dock ‘super post-Panamax ships’ each carrying more than 15 000 containers, each with the extreme bunker fuel consumption that means shipping is a much higher source of climate-frying greenhouse gas emissions than the airline industry.
Yet at the recent Presidential Infrastructure Investment Conference in Sandton, Deputy Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin confessed the obvious: “Too much of our development has been plantation to port, mine to port.” Instead, we need “social infrastructure, such as water, hospitals, schools, and housing, in order to prevent the kind of protests witnessed recently in the mining sector.”
But this is probably just a case of “talk-left, invest-right” – in anti-people and anti-planet projects like South Durban’s Port, on behalf of corporate profits. Admitted disgraced former City Manager Mike Sutcliffe, whose policies of neglect were so harmful to Clairwood from 2002-11, “The negative externalities associated with such [port] investments are felt by residents in the South Durban Basin – increased trucking, increased congestion and pollution, unsafe roads and the like.”
According to the Academy of Science of South Africa’s 2011 book about Durban, Towards a Low Carbon City, “The transport sector is pivotal to the transition to a low carbon city... The top priority was identified as the need to reduce the vehicle kilometers travelled in the road freight sector as this provided the greatest opportunity to simultaneously reduce emissions of GreenHouse Gases and traditional air pollutants.”
Yet for decades, Transnet has sabotaged its own rail freight capacity, and Sutcliffe’s South Durban plan – now apparently adopted without amendment by his successor S’bu Sithole – makes matters worse, in spite of vague promises to shift containers off the roads.
Try raising these issues with Transnet and its consultants, as I have repeatedly since May. At this time of ‘planetary emergency,’ to quote Hansen, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Roy Van Ballegooyen entirely ignored climate in his “Modelling of potential environmental change in the port marine environment” report, and then to justify, replied to my concerns last week in pure gobbledygook: “What needs to be assessed is the extent to which the proposed development will modify the response to climate change that would have occurred in the absence of the proposed development.”
Another Transnet consultancy, Nemai, replied to me, “The project will decrease the ship waiting and turnaround times which will have a lower carbon impact” – not realizing that if you increase efficiency by reducing the ships’ offshore wait, you speed up the system as a whole, thus increasing carbon impact.
Just weeks after the same berths were severely damaged during heavy winds which bumped a ship up against the dock cranes, and less than a year after Durban hosted the United Nations climate summit, it seems that renewed storm surges correspond to a new denialism, comparable in damage to Thabo Mbeki at the height of the AIDS pandemic a decade ago.
The operative mandate, applied to SA state investment in general, seems to be “mine more and faster and ship what we mine cheaper and faster”, as Business Day editor Peter Bruce ordained just as Gordhan was finalizing his R845 billion infrastructure budget.
And with that pro-corporate philosophy will come horrible new household words we had never heard before, starting with Marikana and Sandy.
Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society; his recent books include Politics of Climate Justice for UKZN Press and Durban’s Climate Gamble for UNISA Press.
Kunzima esikufunde kwisiphepho uSandy
NguPatrick Bond Umhumushi nguFaith ka-Manzi
Sifundeni ngesiphepho uSandy ngesonto eledlule, lapha eNingizimu neTheku lapho uR250 wezigidigidi ozotshalwa ngokwakhiwa kwechwebe elisha, kanye namashumi ezigidigidi ekwandisweni kwezizinda zamakhemikhali amafutha?
Ungathi asifundanga lutho olutheni, uma uma ngicabanga ngalaeziphukuphuku engihlangane nazo ngesikhathi sohlelo lweEnvironmental Impact Assessment (EIA) obelenziwa uTransnet, ngoLwesithathu olwedlule okwakuhambisana noSuku Oluvulekile eSeafarer’s Club. Njengechweba elikhulu laseAfrika, iTheku libhekene nokukhuqedalana okunzima okqhamuka eMaputo kokuthuthwelwa kwezimpahla eGauteng, kanye mhlawumbe naseCoega eduze kwaseBhayi njengesizinda sesifundazwe esiseningizimu neAfrika kwezokuthutha. Izikhulu zaseTransnet kanye nezeTheku babhekana nalokhu njengamakhehla angenalwazi.
Kodwa kunzima ukuziba isichotho sangesonto eledlule, okwandisa umonakalo odalwa ukushitsha kwesimo sezulu, lapho kucekeleke phansi amakhaya cishe afika kuR300 wezigidigidi enyakatho nempumalanga yaseMelika, okucishe futhi kube inani elifanayo ngesikhathi sikazamcolo wango2010 ePakistani futhi njengoba nosomiso esicekele phansi izitshalo khona lapho.
Njengoba nolwandle lufudumala, iziphepho nazo ziyanyuka, kubhebhethekiswa ukunyuka kwamazinga olwandle. “Isisindo solwandle seqhwa lolwandle iArctic sesehle ngamaphesenti angu75 eminyakeni engu30,” kubika uJames Hansen onguchwepheshe wokushintsha kwesimo sezulu ohlonishwa kakhulu emhlabeni wonke, ekhuluma ngenyanga edlule esikhungweni semfundo ephakeme eCornell University Global Labor Insititute. “Kunengozi yokuthi izingcwengcwe zamaqhwa ziyovele ziqale ziwe futhi kungenzeka amazinga olwandle anyuke ngamamitha ambalwa ngonyaka owodwa.”
Uma kuhamba ngalendlela, izingxenye ezinkulu maphakathi neTheku ziyozika (ngabe isiphi lesisihlakaniphi esgqugquzela ukwakhiwa kweThe Point yezicebi ngaphandle kokuqaphela ukunyuka kwamazinga olwandle?). Amanye amadolobha aseduze kolwandle okwenza izigidi zabantu zibe sengozi ambandakanya iMumbai (enezakhamizi ezingu2.8 wezigidi ezisengcupheni yokusondelana nokunyuka kwamanzi olwandle), eShanghai (izakhamizi zakhona ezingu2.4 wezigidi), eMiami (izakhamizi zakhona ezingu2 wezigidi), eAlexandria (izakhamizi zakhona ezingu 1.3 wezigidi) kanye neTokyo (izakhamizi zakhona ezingu1.1 wezigidi).
Nati sibe nawo usandi wethu omncane, ngonhlaka 19 kuMashi 2007, ngokusho kukacwepheshe ngezindaba ezimelene nokwenza kwezemvelo zolwandle uAndrew Mather, “ukunyuka kwamagagasi kwakwalwa ezindaweni ezahlukahlukene zasolwandle ngaseThekwini naseBallito futhi kwanyuka kwagcina kukamamitha angu10.57 ngaphezulu kweZinga Lolwandle.”
Kodwa futhi ezinyangeni ezimbili ezedlule, ngenkathi ngibuza Ungqongqoshe Wezezimali uPravin Gordhan ngesimo sezulu ngathola engenalwazi ngesikhathi sesidlo sasemini, ngenkathi evakashele ilokishi laseClairwood elisebungozini eNingizimu neTheku eduze kwechweba. UGordhan wayekhuluma nezakhamizi ezazithukuthele; lelolokishi elincane liyonyathelwa ngamatrukhi okuhlanganisa ukuqalwa kabusha okusondelene nokukhula kweBack-of-Ports. Ziyisishagalolunye izakhamizi zaseClairwood naseBluff esezalahlekelwa izimpilo zafa kuleminyaka edlule ngabashayeli bamatrukhi abahlanyayo.
Ukunyusa kwemakhonteyina adlula eNingizimu neTheku ngonyaka kusukela kwizigidi ezimbili kuya kwezingu20 ikona okuqondwe abahleli abayizilima bongxiwankulu, njengoba ukuba sengcupheni komnotho wethu emhlabeni wonke kanye nokungakwazi ukukhiqiza imikhiqizo yethu ngokuqhudelana kuya kuba sesimweni esibucayi.
Kodwa izimboni – ezimbandakanya iNemai Consultancy kanye neGraham Associates – eaisebenzela iTransnet kanye nedolobha zinganzange zikhulume ngokushintsha kwesimo kwizinkulungwane zamakhasi emibiko ekhokhelwe imali enkulu, okubhekelela uhlelo lonke noma ukuqala kokwakhiwa, ukwakhiwa kabusha kwezisigidigidi ezingu4 okuyobe kupakisa ‘imikhumbi emikhulu yangalena kweyasePanamax’ esuke ngamunye ithwele amakhonteyina adlula ku15 000, futhi umkhumbi ngamunye odla kakhulu amafutha okusho ukuthi ukuthutha ngemikhumbi kuyoba umsuka omkhulu kakhulu wokushisa kwezulu okuyobe kusatshalaliswa yizisisi ezingcolisa umoya kuneziboni zezindizamshini.
Kodwa futhi kwingqungqthela esanda kuba khona kaMongameli Yokutshala Kwizinqalasizinda eSandton, Isekela likaNgqongqoshe Wezemisebenzi Yemiphakathi uJeremy Cronin wamukela njengokweqiniso ukuthi, “Intuthuko yethu eningi ibisuka emaplazini iya emachwebeni, ezimayini iya emachwebeni.” Isikhundleni salokho, sidinga “inqalasizinda yezenhlalakahle, njengamanzi, izibhedlela, izikole, kanye nezezindlu, ukuze sikwazi ukuvika lezizizinhlobo zezibhelu esizibonayo zenzeka njengamanje kwimboni yezezimayini.”
Kodwa ngazama ukuphakamisa lokhu noTransnet kanye nacebisana nabo, njengoba kade ngenza ngiphindelela kusukela ngenyanga kaMeyi. Kulesisikhathi ‘sokuhlela ngokuphuthumayo,’ ukucaphuna-nje amazwi kaHansen, no Roy Van Ballegooyen weCSIR – owaluziba lonke udaba lwezulu kumbiko wakhe nge “Modelling of potential environmental change in the port marine environment” – waphedula ukukhathazeka kwami ngesonto eledlule ngobuwula: “Esidinga kuhlolwe ukuthi kungakanani okuyokwenzeka mayelana nentuthuko ekukhulunywa ngayo kuyokwehlisa kanjani ukushintsha kwesimo sezulu okuyokwenzeka uma ingenzeki lentutuko ekukhulunywa ngayo.”
Omunye futhi ocebisana neTransnet, uNemai, wangiphendula wathi, “Leprojekti iyokwehlisa imikhumbi elindile futhi iguqile ngokuthi kube nezikhathi lapho kuyoba khona nomthelela omncane wesisisi esingcolisa umoya” – engaboni ukuthi uma wehlisa amazing obuchwepheshe ngokwehlisa imikhumbi elindili ngaphandle kwechweba, wenyusa ukukwazi kwawo ukuthulula, nokungathululi, futhi wenyusa amazing okuphumela kwesisisi esingcolisa umoya.
Emva kwamasonto lapho izindawo zalapho kufikela khona imikhumbi zicekele phansi ngesikhathi kunesichotho esikhulu okwenza umkhumbi ungqubuzane nezinsimbi ezinkulu ezethululayo, futhi emva kwezinyanga ezingu10 kade iTheku lisingethe ingqungquthela yaMazwe Omhlaba yokushintsha kwesimo sezulu, kubonakala sengathi ukunyuka kwamazinga olwandle kanye nokwehla nokwenyuka kwezichotho kuhambisana nokuphika okufana nokwenziwa nguThabo Mbeki ngesikhathi lapho umashayabhuqe wesifo sengculaza usabulala kakhulu.
Umyalelo ogunyaziwe, obhekiswe ekuxhasweni kombuso waseNingizimu Afrika jikelele, kubonakala sengathi ‘ukumba kakhulu futhi ngokushesha bese sithuthela kwmanye amazwe lokhu esikumbayo ngamanani aphansi futhi ngokushesha,” njengoba umhleli wephephandaba iBusiness Day uPeter Bruce asho ngesikhathi uGordhan ayeqedela eseqeda ukuhlanganisa umbiko wakhe ngohlelo lwezimali ngezinqalasizinda ngezigidigidi ezinguR845 ngenyanga kaFebruwari.
Futhi ngomqondo oxhasa ezezimboni kuyofika amagama amabi ayoba nedumela esingakaze sizwe ngawo ngaphambilini, okuqala ngeMarikana kanye neSandy.
UPatrick Bond ungumqondisi eCentre for Civil Society esikhungweni semfundo ephakeme eUKZN;izincwadi zakhe ezisanda kushicilelwa yiUKZN Press iPolitics of Climate Justice kanye neDurban’s Climate Gamble eshicilelwe iUNISA Press.