Dusi guts again?

2008-09-15 00:00

It is just over four months to go before the 2009 Dusi Canoe Marathon, which is set to run from January 15 to 17. Last year, a Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) survey among competitors found that 45% of the participants became ill with “Dusi guts” — diarrhoea and/or vomiting.

The Dusi organising committee threatened to move the start of the race, and, if necessary, to cancel it. It also expressed concern that international competitors might not return for future events. What sort of water quality can Dusi 2009 competitors expect from the river?

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (Dwaf) is the regulating authority responsible for national water resources including water quality.

“We have to wait for the rains before we have a full picture of the current health of the Duzi,” said Lin Gravelet-Blondin, deputy director: Water Quality Management for Dwaf.

Storms before last year’s race put huge pressure on the city’s aging and inadequate sewer system resulting in very high levels of E.coli in the river from faecal pollution. It was these “bugs” that made Dusi paddlers sick.

Andrew Booth, general manager of Duct said: “It is too soon to say that the water quality of the Duzi is getting better, but we may have reached the point where it has stopped getting worse. The city’s sewer system has not been upgraded since last year so sewage spillages are highly likely if we have heavy rains around the time of the race.

“However, things are starting to happen after a crisis meeting about the Duzi was held in May, that was attended by Dwaf, Umgeni Water, the Msunduzi Municipality and Duct. Morale in the municipality’s sewer section is improving after several positive developments since that meeting.”

Booth said “the good news” included:

• Twenty-five temporary staff having their contracts made permanent;

• the main superintendent having his overtime allowance increased, which is important as the whole section is “chronically understaffed and short of key people and has to operate in crisis mode much of the time”; and

• seven new trucks and five new bakkies being bought for the

section (until recently the average age of their vehicles was 14 years).

• Duct is holding its annual Witness uMsunduzi-uMngeni Community River Care Day sponsored by Hulamin on September 20.

Interested parties, including school and church groups, will clean up the uMsunduzi and uMgeni rivers by removing rubbish from the river banks, clearing alien vegetation and planting indigenous trees.

For details, contact Duct at 033 342-3012 or www.duct.org.za

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