‘Attention needed’

2017-11-28 06:01

Delays in filling a management post at the Zandvlei estuary are having a serious environmental impact, residents say.

The Zandvlei Protected Areas Advisory Committee (ZPAAC) says the previous manager left his post in September and a replacement is yet to be appointed. Not having a permanent manager has left the estuary without the careful attention it needs, says ZPAAC chairperson Bernelle Verster.

“As a highly dynamic system, the estuary needs manual intervention often based on continuous monitoring of many factors, and knowledge and experience to interpret that information correctly. One example is preventing algal blooms, like the successful prevention that occurred in February.

“The mouth opening periodically as well as mouth management in storm events are also important. Then, of course, there are a myriad other things that need to keep happening,” she explains.

The estuary is perpetually at risk of algal blooms that can lead to fish deaths and affect human health, explains Vester, and the properties around the estuary are at “perpetual risk of flooding, property damage and potential loss of human life in the event of a flood”.

Residents have also reported sediment collecting in the vlei, which leads to shallow water levels and poor water quality. This impacts on both fish and recreational water users and they have called for dredging to take place.

The lack of dedicated management is a “disaster on every level – economically, environmentally and recreationally”, says Vester, and can lead to an increase in litter, algal blooms, fish deaths, bad smells, flooding and damage to property.

“Zandvlei is at the bottom of the catchment, everything – good, but mostly bad – that happens higher up, such as nutrient run-off from the vineyards, litter and human waste from backyard dwellers in Retreat and sediment washing from building developments, all end up in the vlei. We are the catchment toilet, and it is a huge job to make the vlei function well in these conditions. The previous manager did an excellent job to not only manage the vlei but actually improved its functioning, in very difficult circumstances. Eventually he just couldn’t cope anymore.

“I don’t think we can even imagine the level of disaster this can bring on – but we are already starting to see it,” she says.V Continued on page 2.

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