Coastal erosion which is a result of increasing sea levels is a much bigger problem than previously thought. The estimated rise in sea levels as a direct consequence of changes in climate will lead to coastlines receding across the globe due to erosion.
Rising sea level erodes beaches and the effect it has on lagoons, have until now been taken too lightly.
But despite the unusual weather patterns experienced throughout South Africa, the changing climate for the majority of people remains an issue for the future.
That future fast-tracked recently when scientists studying Antarctic ice loss reported that if carbon emissions continued at the same rate, sea levels could rise 1.8m this century — considerably higher than previous estimates of 60cm by the year 2100.
If the oceans rose by 1.8m today, 340+ homes in Langebaan valued at billions of rands would be flooded by seawater.
Many of Langebaan’s residential or holiday developments have been built in very close proximity to the sandy shorelines. These communities are all vulnerable to beach erosion. Beach erosion in Saldanha Bay, particularly at Langebaan Beach, has been the subject of much controversy in recent years.
On-going erosion for the past 30 years has been documented, with the loss of over 100 m of beach in some areas since 1960 and up to 40 m of shoreline lost in places in just the last 5 years (McClarty et al. 2006, Gericke 2008).
Langebaan Will Be With Us for A Long Time
Following extreme weather in 1997 which led to the damage of residential properties, the need to safeguard parts northern Langebaan beach became obvious.
The subsequent construction of groynes and rock revetments along Langebaan Beach helped to prevent any further damage to property.
The West Coast District Municipality has sustainable coastal management plans in place to protect the coastline. Despite the risks, geologists agree that Langebaan will be with us for a long time. In fact, according to a study by Dylan Blake, a geologist specialising in coastal zones and hydrogeology the majority of the total West Coast is at a “low risk”.
The same study which was undertaken on behalf of, and funded by, the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning came to the following conclusion: “The Langebaan area ( has low to moderate risk) due to the extensive development below the 2.5 metres above mean sea level contour and its exposure to swell entering Saldanha Bay. The areas of low to moderate risk reflect moderate to high gradient coastal areas, often with rocky coastlines or high backing coastal dune systems, with relatively little development in lower elevation areas.”
As a society, we have the capacity to minimise shoreline erosion. For instance, the Antarctic study predicted a 1.8m rise by 2100 if we do nothing about carbon emissions. Decreasing emissions to zero over the next 40 to 50 years, on the other hand, would likely keep the increase closer to 60 cm.