Concern over water quality may force organisers to move Dusi date

2019-05-13 15:00
Sbonelo Khwela shoots Mission Rapids on his way to winning day one of the Dusi Canoe marathon on Friday.

Sbonelo Khwela shoots Mission Rapids on his way to winning day one of the Dusi Canoe marathon on Friday. (Ian Carbutt)

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“Dusi guts” and dirty water are forcing a rethink on whether the Dusi canoe marathon should start later in the year.

Gameplan Media’s Dave Macleod told The Witness that “the race is very concerned by the deterioration of the quality ... given the profile and numbers of participants as well as the increase in international participants”.

He added they were also concerned about “the failure of the respective authorities” to attend to the “ongoing issues that have been brought to their attention by the Duct teams” as well as Umgeni Water staff to identify problems like sewer breaks and sources of E. coli pollution.

Macleod added that there was also a vital need to focus attention on the residents who rely on the river for drinking water, feeding livestock, farming and washing.

Gameplan Media conducted an online survey after this year’s race because “the increase in incidents of Dusi guts was anticipated and the survey was needed to put a precise figure to the incidence of medical problems”, said Macleod.

He said only 397 of the 915 entrants took part in the survey. Results showed that 23 people had to withdraw from the race due to Dusi guts, while 87 people reported severe Dusi guts after the race.

There were 129 people who reported mild Dusi guts after the race and 158 people reported having no problems at all.

Macleod said the Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) is still busy with their annual survey of paddlers, which will be more comprehensive.

“What is clear is that the quality of the water ... is an issue of local, provincial and national priority,” he said.

He said Dusi guts — which is caused by large amounts of E. coli in the water — has been a problem for the race for more than two decades.

“This is largely due to a number of issues including the rapid increase in informal housing around the city.”

He said these settlements were not properly serviced and did not have functioning toilets.

Another reason for the poor water quality was the Darvill Water Works being unable to cope with the expansion of the city and the power supply failures at the plant due to load shedding, he said.

“Pushing the race date to the beginning of March [from February] may well assist with avoiding the flood season, which will definitely assist with race water quality,” said Macleod.

Late last year, parts of the Duzi river experienced a die-off of fish, and while many factors had contributed to this, one of the main contributors was the Darvill Water Works.

A source involved in the monitoring of the water quality, who asked not to be named, said the water quality was “worse for wear”, describing it as “frightening”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dusi canoe marathon

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