The politics of megaprojects : assessing the socio-spatial and environmental impacts of the proposed dig-out port in south Durban.
Megaprojects are continuing to transform urban landscapes, and take the form of large development projects such as railways, bridges, ports, dams, shopping malls and iconic skyscrapers. For cities, megaprojects act as marketing and branding strategies, promoting the neoliberal quest to be internationally competitive as spaces of investments, consumption and tourism. Adopting a case study approach, and drawing from qualitative and quantitative methods, this study investigates the impacts of one such megaproject, the proposed dig-out port in Durban. Transnet, a railway, port and logistics state-owned company, proposed that the dig-out port should be built at the old Durban International Airport site. Transnet argued that the dig-out port will be a solution to current challenges such as traffic congestion and low turnaround time at the existing port of Durban, while also addressing future demand and supply challenges. By using conceptual approaches such as speculative urbanism and neoliberal urban governance, this study argues that critical issues of participation, impacts such as displacements and environmental costs were ignored during the planning process for the dig-out port. Furthermore, civil society organisations and residents in adjacent zones were not consulted. Similar to many international and national case studies of megaprojects, the proponents of dig-out port overestimated benefits such as economic growth and employment, while undermining critical social and ecological impacts especially in an already environmentally stressed area of South Durban. This study argues that the planning process of the dig-out port reveal the actual existing neoliberalism at the local scale. However, such practices of neoliberalism are varied and are manifested through collaboration between state, municipal and private actors in planning and executing megaprojects.