Dusi canoe marathon organisers battle weed curse

2013-01-15 00:00

ORGANISERS of this year’s Dusi canoe marathon from February 14-16 are battling their old enemy on the route — water hyacinth.

Every year, the floating islands of the green mass poses problems, blocking and intruding on lines the paddlers use along the river.

One of the major hotspots is at the head of Inanda Dam, where the weed completely covers the water, blocking any path for paddlers.

Huge spots of hyacinth cause havoc, meaning paddlers have to take unscheduled portages. Officials in high-powered speedboats try to keep the floating masses of weeds away from paddlers.

It’s an all-day job, as the weed soon spreads its unwelcome tentacles over the same spot.

The only solution is intensive, controlled eradication, especially at Inanda Dam, as the hyacinth means paddlers would make an extra 500 metre portage near the end of a long second day, just before the back-breaking flat paddle across the dam.

Trying their utmost to control the weed is the Dusi Umgeni Conservation Trust (Duct), which has been fighting the curse on the two rivers for many years.

Bart Fokkens, Duct regional manager in Durban, said an intergrated management system was working well in fighting the hyacinth.

Said Fokkens: “It’s a three-tiered approach involving spraying, mechanical grinders and weevils.

“The weevils are used as they eat hyacinth and then die off.”

Besides blocking the waterways, hyacinth poses a dangerous obstacle to paddlers.

It’s thick, heavy, suffocating and long, up to two metres in places.

If a paddler becomes entangled in the mass or ends up underneath, the consequences could be dire.

It also de-oxygenates the water, killing fish and other aquatic life, and in the hot, humid valley through which the rivers run, the weed thrives, doubling its volume every seven days.

However, paddlers have been assured by the organisers that every effort is being made to ensure their safety and they reach Durban by the best and most convenient route possible.

Entries for the race are still available at www.dusi.co.za.

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