‘Rising ocean will cover Marine Drive’

The prospect of a five-star hotel stay with waves hitting the shoreline right outside your window is likely to be a reality for visitors to Nelson Mandela Bay between 2081 and 2100.

This is according to South African Weather Services regional manager Hugh van Niekerk, who gathered data which showed that the city’s picturesque Marine Drive would be completely covered by the ocean due to an increase in temperature and rising sea levels.

Van Niekerk, who gave a talk in Central this week, said one of the biggest concerns most people were unaware of was that, should sea levels rise – which according to his predictions has already started – low-lying areas would disappear. “Being a coastal city, the municipality will have to look at putting contingency plans in place.

“We’ve got an N2 highway which in a number of years is going to be inundated by seawater, the entire Swartkops estuary, which is going to be flooded, and we’ve got a whole lot of low-lying areas that will be covered in water.

“Schoenmakerskop is quite high at this point and fortunately there is not a lot of development out that side, but the rest is quite low and flat.

“And based on that, in a few years’ time future generations will be able to stay at The Boardwalk Hotel and have a lovely view with the ocean much closer.”

Van Niekerk said rapid change in the climate was concerning as the effects on the environment would have dire consequences and could lead to all sorts of diseases. “Heat is actually building up.

It is getting warmer and warmer, which would be bad news for not only people but also livestock and insects. “The rise in temperature could also increase diseases.” He said the Bay was facing a “green drought” where vegetation was still lush despite water scarcity.

“Unfortunately the amount of rainfall that we are expecting between now and the end of our summer season is not going to be good enough to supply our dams. “This means the dams will remain fairly dry because the demand is too large.

We will still be experiencing water restrictions with quite a warm start to our summer,” he said.

Van Niekerk said the Bay would need continued floods to eradicate the drought status. “We have favourable rain predicted in the Port Elizabeth area, but it is not enough to fill our dams so we are going to have a green drought continuing for about a year.” He said drilling boreholes was not a great idea as it would affect the underground water levels.

“The municipality has a lot of big plans in place, but things like subsidising water tanks for every household would also make a difference.”