Clairwood Racecourse, Trucking and now Nuclear…. How much more can south Durban take?
The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and Clairwood Racecourse Action Committee (CRAC) hosted a community meeting on the 16th August 2015 at the Merebank Community hall. The purpose of this meeting was to highlight the many distresses south Durban is faced with and the proposed deadly Nuclear Development on the Old Durban International Airport.  Roshan Ramdeen welcomed all community members and addressed the crowd on the purpose of the days meeting and its importance. He went on to explain that we have had 3 mass public meetings on the Clairwood Racecourse issue and the purpose of this meeting is to provide an update but also to inform the community about other developments that are planned for South Durban Area and how all these will impact on the lives of surrounding communities and beyond. One such new development is mention of a nuclear plan on the old Durban international airport site. This meeting was also an engagement for people to express their concerns.
Desmond D’Sa (SDCEA Co-ordinator) spoke on the significance of the Clairwood Racecourse. He explained his involvement in the issue of the Clairwood Racecourse and where we are in the process so far what have we done thus far and where we plan on heading regarding the legal case and our campaign mobilization and awareness creation? The demolishing site at the moment should not make us give up. We can still win to make our lives better. The Clairwood racecourse has a lot of biodiversity and endangered species which we must embrace and not further destroy. The trucking will increase; pollution will increase and compromise our health. According to Mr. D’Sa “We are in a legal appeal process but as we wait on the MEC of Economic , tourism and Environment to make the decision, we must  take our collective voices into the streets. The appeal documents are available for review in public libraries of Wentworth and Merebank as well as the eThekwini Municipality Environmental Health office in Clairwood”.
Junagarth Primary School principal spoke on how this development will affect the schools. He has done a little research study himself which he explains in his presentation. A large number of kids at the taxi stop wait for their transports under the bridge at the Clairwood Racecourse and their lives are in danger every day and more after this development goes ahead. His observation and research are the following: 5 schools (Junagarth Primary, St Marys school, Parsee Rustemjee, Merebank Secondary, Settlers Primary). In total there are 3792 learners and 2555 come from outside Merebank and Wentworth, which is 67%. Educators at the 5 schools mentioned number146 in total and out of this number 87 come from outside Merebank and Wentworth (60%). These are alarming figures and risk the lives of many. According to the principal, “The safety of our kids is at stake and we cannot afford to sit back and allow it to destroy our lives. There will traffic congestion and school kids will be late, educators will be late, then how is schools supposed to managed and run. This is robbing kids of the opportunity to a fair education’.
Priya Pillay (SDCEA Environmental Project Officer – Infrastructure and Development) gave a presentation on what will that development mean to our society and community and how it will impact on our lives daily. She showed a power point presentation of all the ramification of this development touching on all the pressing issue that need to be considered looking at the effects of this in our neighborhood. She spoke about the traffic concerns and the increase in trucking and how this will threaten the lives of people and especially kids daily. Ms. Pillay expressed her disappointment, “Looking at the audience it was sad to realize that no youth was there, and went on to say that they are the future generation and they need to be at the forefront of these issues because their parents and grandparents can take up the struggle today but who is going to take it up in the future, they need to be more active and participate”. The Clairwood racecourse is 95 years old. It is a legacy and that all that beauty and green space will be destroyed all in the name of profit. This development is unacceptable and we cannot allow big business to take over our lives. She emphasized that we need to stand up and be heard otherwise there will be nothing to show to our kids only what they will  learn about in their history books
Noluthando Mbeje (Environmental Project Officer – Communications, Energy and Health) gave an extremely powerful presentation introducing us to a new development that is intended for South Durban which is a nuclear plant. She explained what a nuclear plan or nuclear energy is and went on to speak about the impacts it can have on society. This development is expected to generate electricity for industries and this means a big threat to people. It costs 1 Trillion rand and in South Africa will end up being about 4 trillion and we cannot afford this type finance. Her presentation consisted of pictures depicting the effects of nuclear disasters on humans and animals which was very disturbing but eye opening to the realities that can occur. She spoke about the nuclear disasters in places such as the Three Mile Islands and Chernobyl in Russia (worst in the history of Nuclear) as well as the most recent one, in Japan Fukushima and how people from there are still experiencing the effects even today and we do not want to be on that list. According to Ms. Mbeje “South Africa can’t expect to walk into a fire and not get burnt”.
The floor was opened for discussions.  The burning issue was on youth involvement as their lives are going to be altered. The residents were motivating and encouraging each other to keep moving forward and fighting this Development. ‘No matter how big the obstacles are we can win and make a difference’; ‘We cannot afford to sit back’, ‘Let’s take these concerns to our places of worship for support and assistance. God is more powerful than any business’. The discussion was closed off with the question of ‘How much more can Merebank take?’
The meeting was closed off with the following way forward: the communities of south Durban will unite and never give up!