may day for rivers - kzn sets an example

Submitted by incoming on Tue, 2012-04-17 09:22

Pandora Long, Penz Malinga, Penny Rees and Mike Farley

A small group of environmentalists passionate about the planet, and particularly water, will begin walking the 265 kms of the uMngeni River on 1 May (May Day).

Starting at MngeniVlei – the plateau above Dargle and Fort Nottingham where the river rises - and ending at Blue Lagoon where it rushes into the Indian Ocean.

Along the way they will document and record all impacts on the river to gain a complete picture of the health of the river and hopefully unite everyone in establishing a Green Corridor along the length of the river. Daily stories of their adventures and findings will be posted on their blog -

The River Walk team hope that this will encourage others around the world to call “Mayday” for their rivers too.

The uMngeni River is the sole source of water to communities as far away as Wartburg, Hilton, Pietermaritzburg, Vulindlela, Eston, Botha’s Hill and Durban. Just over one thousand million litres of potable water is distributed from the uMngeni River each day to these areas.

In addition, this river is the sole supply of water for many communities situated in the area around Nagle and Inanda dams and its eco-systems provide water, food webs, habitat and shelter to all life along the river.

The river that just over two years ago had been completely choked up with weed, now sparkled in the sunshineThe river that just over two years ago had been completely choked up with weed, now sparkled in the sunshineThe river is under tremendous pressure, and becomes increasingly negatively impacted as it flows towards Durban.

Litter, polluted storm water and toxins from industries, sewage and excess nutrients from fertilizers, alien plants flourishing on the river banks and choking its waters are just some of the ‘additives’ that turn this river from a pristine at its source, to a polluted soup as it nears the sea.

Cumulative effects from the uMngeni’s tributaries compound the problem - the fish in one of the dams are toxic for human consumption, whilst Albert Falls Dam is in early stages of eutrophication and unless trends are reversed, this dam is predicted to be pea green with algae in ten years’ time.

The more polluted the water becomes, the more difficult and costly it is to treat to acceptable potable levels which makes it more expensive for users. It also becomes more dangerous for communities who use water directly from the river in the absence of piped potable water.

As the river degrades it impacts on the ability of all organisms, plants and animals to survive and continue to play their part in keeping the river system healthy and functioning. Thus the ability of this river to sustain related ecosystems, supply water to KZN’s population and economy, support biodiversity and serve as a buffer to Climate Change is being compromised. South Africa’s river ecosystems are under more pressure than its terrestrial ecosystems.

This dire situation of the river inspired the six members of the Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) to walk from source to sea, to raise public awareness regarding the importance of the river and the problems related to its current state of decline. Join the Fellowship of the River or call Penny Rees 082 3407571 if you can assist in any way.

“Mayday” is an international distress signal for ships at sea. “Mayday for Rivers” is a local distress call to citizens in the uMngeni Catchment to help ensure the health of theuMgeni and Msunduzi Rivers and their tributaries. A systematic assessment of river biodiversity in South Africa found that 84% of river ecosystems are threatened with 54% critically endangered.

Supplied by
Photo: Fish Jump Falls on the uMngeni river by Penny Rees
Photo: River walkers by SbonelaNgcobo of The MercuryAerial uMngeni RiverAerial uMngeni River