MORE than 1 000 residents gathered at eNhlalakahle sports field on August 11 during the launch of the Alien Invasive Species Clearing Project. The aim of the project is to clear invasive alien plants from community areas in the province as it is believed that invasive alien plants cause damage to the environment as well as the human economy. Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube launched the project. Dube-Ncube urged the community of Greytown to preserve the environment and refrain from polluting the rivers. She also encouraged the residents to start co-operatives in the Umvoti Municipality to boost the local economy. “We must refrain from littering as it harms the environment. The economy is in your hands, use it,” she said. She urged local chiefs to make a list of the emerging farmers who are not yet registered on the database of the department. “I am concerned that there are young farmers who plant vegetables, but they are not benefiting from the department’s programme that provides services to the farmers,” she said. Dube-Ncube added that invasive alien plants absorb a lot of water and so compete with the vegetables for the scarce resource. “Gum trees and timber trees are the main cause of soil erosion, and therefore cause severe drought in our community,” Dube-Ncube said. Umvoti Municipality Mayor Thamsanqa Ngubane said:“We have seen drought in Umzinyathi and floods, whereby the environment showed that it was damaged. Before the recent elections, I met with senior local people. They complained about the [local] river that is in a bad state. They said that the condition of the river has had a detrimental effect on the lives of the people. Due to this, farmers are no longer able to plant their [vegetables] nearby the river as it is polluted and not safe. Alien plants endanger the indigenous plants and the quality of the soil and water. “We are pleased that following our discussion with the MEC, she responded. We believed that this project will be of great help to our community.”Ngubane outlined the five priorities that were raised by residents during the elections. He said the municipality will, among other services, revamp the eNhlalakahle sports field. According to the mayor, R10 million has been set aside for the reconstruction of the sport field. Ngubane said: “This new facility will have [new] steps for the people to sit on. The old change rooms will be demolished to build the outdoor gym. The tennis court will be turned into a multi-purpose court where several sports codes will be played. We will rebuild the [old] toilets. With this budget of R10 million we are going to build a swimming pool.” Ngubane added that a community meeting to introduce a new contractor will take place between August 13 and 15. Local emerging entrepreneurs received equipment and other items to help their businesses prosper.