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Working for the Coast project

Introduction to Working for the Coast 

The Working for the Coast Programme (WftC) of the Department of Environmental Affairs was established to help deal with some of the aforementioned challenges in line with the Integrated Coastal Management Act 28 of 2008. The WftC programme is informed by the broader Expanded Public Works Programme which is using labour intensive methods in its implementation. The programme is also linked to other inland programmes of the EPIP chief directorate aimed at street cleaning and greening, waste management, rehabilitation of degraded areas (catchments), bio remediation of polluted rivers etc. The Integrated Coastal Management Act (ICMA) came into effect on 1 December 2009. The ICMA is a specific management act under the umbrella National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) and is the first legal instrument, in South Africa, dedicated to managing our coastline in an integrated fashion and ensuring the sustainable use of the coast’s natural resources.

The coastal protection zone consists of land falling within an area declared in terms of the Environment Conservation Act, 1989 (Act No. 73 of 1989), as a sensitive coastal area within which activities identified in terms of section 21(1) of that Act may not be undertaken without an authorization. These areas include, among others, any coastal wetland, lake, lagoon or dam which is situated wholly or partially within 100 meters of the high-water mark. The ICM Act provides that initially the coastal protection zone would extend 100 metres inland from the high-water mark in urban areas that have already been zoned for residential, commercial, industrial or multiple-use purposes, and 1 km inland in other areas (rural areas), but these boundaries may be adjusted depending on the sensitivity of the coastline.

For example, in developed areas where the coastal environment has been highly modified, such as Durban’s beach-front and Sea Point in Cape Town, the width of the coastal protection zone could be reduced to less than 100 metres. In other instances such as estuaries where tidal influence extends to further inland to more than 1 km or where dune fields extend further than 1 km inland of the high water mark the width of the coastal protection zone could be extended beyond 1 km.

The coastlands of South Africa are characterized by a coalescence of effects of inland resource practices and those from the marine coastal zone. High population densities and poor techniques of resource development among inland communities create significant impact on coastal resources. Rapid developmental needs have had a negative impact even on un-spoilt yet pristine areas along the coastline.

These include amongst others, coastal construction works, mineral exploration, rapid expansion of urban settlements and most of all serving as a motivation is the economic benefit of the areas without having considered the direct consequences that might come as a result.

Today, problems experienced along the coastline include:

a) Continuous Sedimentation

Coastal sedimentation has become a glaring problem especially along the east coast. Silt laden river waters and muddy beaches are some of the outstanding effects and evidence of excessive coastal sedimentation which have led to:

  • Declining attraction of beaches and coastal landscapes
  • Direct killing of marine organisms
  • Rise in local sea level and extensive coastal erosion etc.

b) Environmental Pollution

Several urban centres along the coast are rapidly expanding in population, in the use of hydrocarbon and agro-chemical products and in their extractive and processing industries. The major sources of environmental pollution include:

  • Oil pollution
  • Industrial pollution
  • Pollution from domestic sources
  • Pollution from agro-chemical sources

c) Direct Destruction of Coastal Habitats

Direct habitat destruction is another problem which compounds coastal resource base deterioration in the coastal ecosystems. Major causes of habitat destruction include:

  • Poor fishing methods
  • Land reclamation
  • Mining
  • Dredging activities

All these, unless averted will lead to a shrinkage in the coastal resource base as even prawns, lobsters, shrimps and fish species will continue to lose their habitats.

d) Urbanization and influx of tourists

The major urban centres have large populations, and high rates of population and industrial growths. This is no different to coastal cities which have to cater for both residence and visitors alike. They are therefore employment centres and have pulled large numbers of rural people into urban centres. As a result of this, problems exist in two main areas:

  • Planning trends in development of housing, industry and mining and other developments

All these urban centres receive a growing number of tourists which creates other problems such as overload of facilities during peak periods given the carrying capacity that is mismanaged based on the economic benefit.

These challenges therefore necessitate the need for:

  • Formulation of coastal resource management legislation
  • A well-integrated management approach as marine and coastal ecosystems are characterized by linkage, exploitability and invisibility, that is, streams, winds and currents transport sediments, pollutants, nutrients across coastal ecological zones
  • Integration of land-use management in the uplands with development and ecosystem conditions of the coastlands and sea
  • Protection of critical coastal habitats
  • Protect endemic and endangered species and their habitats as a national heritage
  • Support and expand facilities for education and other social services.
  • Knowledge about the functioning of marine and coastal ecosystems is very crucial, so are interactions and interdependencies between sea and land, the vulnerability of estuaries and coastal systems, and the impact of human practices on coastal habitats.

Aims and objectives

The department aims to create access to pristine beaches and a well conserved coastline through these projects. The many other benefits of this project include not only how to contribute to the country being a tourism destination of choice across the world, but also bring about much needed revenue to the coastal towns and communities, whilst creating job opportunities in the tourism sector.

These projects are aimed at generating approximately 2 536 work opportunities and 5 500 full-time equivalent opportunities, over two years. The beneficiaries of this programme will help in achieving the government’s objective of responsible coastal management by contributing to the development and maintenance of coastal infrastructure along the coast. They are also aimed at assisting municipalities in obtaining and maintaining blue flag status for their beaches, regular coastal clean-ups, as well as the removal of invasive alien vegetation.



A healthy and sustainable coastal environment that is equitably maintained and preserved for current and future generations


To create and implement programmes to ensure sustainable and equitable maintenance of the coastal environments.


Coastal environment that is conserved, protected and sustainably enhanced.

Strategic objectives

  • Protection and conservation of coastal environment.
  • Equitable access to coastal public property


1. Improvement of access to and along the coast

The programme will work with Municipalities and Conservation Agencies to:

  • Clear and maintain existing servitudes
  • Repair existing access structures
  • Building new access structures e.g. Boardwalks

NOTE: Some activities may require EIA’s

2. Cleaning of the Coast

This deliverable talks to all accessible areas of coastline NOT sandy beaches only. The waste found on the coast affects living organisms in all types of habitats (sandy, rocky shore, rock pools, pebble beach etc). Marine debris in the natural environment is not only unsightly but also poses threats to wildlife, such as fish, birds, sea turtles, seals and dolphins. These animals may become entangled in debris or ingest garbage along with real food. Plastic debris degrading, or fragmenting, into small pieces has become a serious problem. Activities for this deliverable are as follows:

  • Regular cleaning of the coast in general
  • Clean Blue Flag Beaches more often
  • Clear historical dumpsites along the coast (dunes)
  • Assist during “disasters” e.g. Oil spills

NOTE: Workers need to be trained on what is “clean”. “What to and what not to remove from coast” and specialist training for oil spills

3. Removal of illegal & abandoned structures

The activities of this deliverable include:

  • Identification of structures (New and old; e.g. Stairs, jetties, slipways, tidal pools)
  • Assist to remove structures that have been declared illegal (court or ICM Act S60)
  • Assist to rehabilitate sites

NOTE: A checklist of these structures will be developed in collaboration with Oceans & Coastal Management Branch.Workers to be supplied with GPS & Camera for locating and reporting on such developments.

4. Removal of invasive alien vegetation

  • Removal of invasive alien vegetation
  • Focus on coastal conservation areas

NOTE: Work with Conservation Agencies during planning and identification of such species and alignment of such activities with the Working for Water Norms and standards

  • Permission sought on Declared Sensitive Coastal Areas
  • Work will be done within a range of 1000m (1km) from the high water mark

5. Rehabilitation of degraded areas

Activities on this deliverables focus on:

  • Conservation areas
  • Dune belt – where there are signs of trampling, erosion etc
  • Implementation of estuary management plans
  • Erosion in catchments (dongas)

NOTE: May require EIAs as well as collaboration with Working for Water programme

6. Monitoring &Compliance: “eyes & ears”

  • Record and report:
  • Driving on beach
  • Illegal effluent pipelines (running)
  • Pollution e.g. Oil on beach, toxic container etc
  • All existing structures e.g. Slipways, tidal pools, stairs
  • Structures in progress of disrepair
  • Illegal access to sensitive areas (i.e dunes etc)


  • Need GPS and Cameras
  • Access to a dedicated (ICM) email and hotline 

Legislative framework

The coastal zone is an area comprising coastal public property, the coastal protection zone, coastal access land and coastal protected areas, the seashore, coastal waters and the exclusive economic zone and includes any aspect of the environment on, in, under and above such area (Figure 1).

The coastal public property consists of coastal waters; land submerged by coastal waters; any island, whether natural or artificial, within coastal waters; the seashore; any admiralty reserve owned by the State as well as natural resources on or in any coastal public property. The mandate and core business of the Department of Environmental Affairs is underpinned by the Constitution of South Africa and specifically the following legislation pertaining to Working on the Coast:

Performance indicators

  • Kilometres of accessible coastline cleaned
  • Number of hectares of dunes rehabilitated
  • Number of estuaries cleaned
  • Number of coastal community parks created
  • Number of waste bins installed
  • Kilometres of hiking trails established and rehabilitated
  • Number of kilometres of boardwalks constructed
  • Number of beaches cleaned


The Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi, MP, launched a new cycle of Working for the Coast projects, with a budget of over R292 million, in the Louwville community, Saldanha Bay on 27 September 2013. The new cycle is scheduled to run for the duration of two years covering the entire coastline from Alexander Bay to Kosi Bay. The Working for the Coast projects are part of the Expanded Public Works Programme initiative of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). These projects aim to create job opportunities, training and skills development, particularly in rural communities. Over R19 159 000 of the total budget for the projects is set for allocation on training of beneficiaries by accredited institutions. Primary beneficiaries of this programme are largely local women and the youth.

Figure 3: diagrammatic presentation of the coastal zone 

Training opportunities

This initiative is envisioned to provide several thousand temporary work opportunities for people across South Africa, and will have both accredited and non-accredited training initiatives for the successful candidates.

These projects will generate approximately 2 536 work opportunities and 5 500 full-time equivalent opportunities, over two years. The Working for the Coast beneficiaries will help achieve our objective of responsible coastal management by:

  • their contribution to the development and maintenance of coastal infrastructure along our coast,
  • assisting municipalities in obtaining and maintaining blue flag status for their beaches,
  • regular coastal clean-ups,
  • removal of illegal and abandoned structures,
  • improvement of access to and along the coast,
  • removal of invasive alien vegetation,
  • compliance and monitoring, and
  • rehabilitation of degraded areas which include dunes, estuaries.

The contribution of the Working for the Coast initiative has been marked in Saldanha Bay over the years, with their presence felt from the developed shores of Saldanha Bay in the North to the pristine shores of the Langebaan Lagoon in the South.


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