Mngeni River needs help quickly

2012-05-28 00:00

WATER brought from the source of the Mngeni River was poured into the Indian Ocean yesterday in a ceremony to mark the end of the “Mayday for Rivers Source to Sea Mngeni River Walk”.

Organised by the Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct), the 311-kilometre walk also saw letters delivered to the eThekwini Municipality to encourage the public to take action to restore and protect the rivers of Kwa­Zulu-Natal.

Duct, which runs a river care programme from Howick and Pietermaritzburg, stated that although the Mngeni provided the lifeblood of KZN’s economy the river was “under-appreciated, abused and badly impacted”.

The walk was completed by Duct members Pandora Long, Preven Chetty, Mike Farley, Penelope Malinga and walk leader Penny Rees.

They were assisted by a support crew — Wendy Ross, John Fourie and Hugh Raw — while Sipiwe Mazibuko accompanied the walkers to film a documentary.

Speaking to The Witness the walkers said they were both depressed by the state of the river in some areas and awed by some of the spectacular scenery they walked through.

They were particularly alarmed by sewage blockages and dumping along the river banks in Howick, the extent of the alien plant problem along the banks and the decline in the river’s health from the confluence with the Msunduzi River.

Long said the worst water quality was found near Howick and on the approach to eThekweni.

“There was overflowing sewage and dumping, dumping, dumping.”

Long said there was also dramatic evidence of sand mining along the river, especially downstream from Nagle and Inanda dams.

“At this stage we are not sure whether all these sites have permits or not, but the river banks are devastated all the way along.

“Banks have been gouged out and there is no rehabilitation.”

Rees said Duct would follow up on the negative impacts they encountered. “We photographed, recorded and mapped sites via GPS,” she said.

“Now we will sit down and mark the places requiring clean-ups, dumping sites, stormwater drains and alien vegetation.”

Rees said the minimal flow of water below Nagle and Inanda Dams was another shock.

“The river is just a trickle below Inanda,” she said.

“The dams hold the water back. If Durban doesn't need the water it stays in the dams.

“There are no environmental flows — there seems to be no concern about the river as an ecological resource.”

The walkers relied on the hospitality of people living along the river for overnight accommodation during the walk.

Though the official beginning of the walk was on May 1, the walkers set off a day earlier than intended from the Mngeni's source near Drinkop near Fort Nottingham.

“Various guest houses donated accommodation,” said Long. “We stayed at a Hare Krishna retreat for two nights, at a community centre in the Valley of a Thousand Hills and we camped at Albert Falls and Nagle Dam.”

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