For Immediate Release – September 29, 2014
In response to the story “Mens en dier gebruik water vol bloed en afval” (Humans
and animals use water saturated with blood and waste”) published 23 September 2014
at Network24, Triwaters wishes to comment as follows:
It is shocking to hear of severely polluted tributaries of the Vaal River in Mpumalanga. However, we need to consider that the present impact is local, possibly with limited impact on river health a few hundred kilometers downstream.
But this can change if riverside communities, municipalities, and decision makers do not act fast.
Municipal infrastructure in many South African towns are under stress. Current sewage, waters and electricity supply networks are struggling to cope with the massive increase in demand.
The result is water and electricity shortages, and sewage and waste entering South Africa’s river systems.
The waste water entering a tributary of the Vaal River at Leandra, Mpumalanga province is no exception. The immediate community is exposed to serious hazards from this contaminated water source.
Although we can acknowledge this incident as a real threat in its immediate surroundings, we cannot assume that towns a thousand kilometers downstream will automatically be threatened by this isolated pollution source. The real threat comes with a compounded problem. As the communities surrounding Lake Erie in Canada can confirm, there comes a time when a natural water system simply cannot cope with the compounded and continuous stresses that pollution places on it. The result is the complete and utter destruction of the aquatic ecosystem – and resulting eutrophication. This does not currently hold true of the Vaal and Orange River system.
We cannot say that the Vaal and Orange rivers are a eutrophic biohazard in their entirety. However, the system is under immense pressure from industry, mining, and residential needs. The waste water entering the natural water sources at Leandra is a perfect example of the threat we face and the impact it has on communities.
It is not too late. Although South Africa’s rivers are under threat we can still use most of them today. However, if we do not take action very soon we may find our rivers (and with them the water we need for survival) destroyed and rendered useless for humanity.
There is hope. We can take action to change our destiny.
In January 2015 Triwaters Tour will depart on a source to sea expedition of the Vaal/Orange river system. Along the way they will meet with riverside communities to work with them around taking ownership of their river. Communities will learn how to measure river health by the use of the easy mini-SASS biodiversity sampling method, and how to interpret the results.
By taking ownership of the rivers and streams in their immediate surrounds, South Africans can change the condition of our water and our own health.
Currently we can still use most of the Vaal and Orange rivers for basic needs, food production and recreation. Only we can determine through our own actions if we will still be able to use it in the future.
About TriWaters Tour
The line from the source of the Vaal River to the ocean via the Orange River is the largest continuous water body within the borders of South Africa with a distance of more than 2,500kilometers. January 2015 three adventurers, Troy Glover (Canada), Brett Merchant (Australia) and Franz Fuls (South Africa) will follow this line from the source of the Vaal River close to Breyten to the mouth of the Orange River at Alexander Bay. The team will be engaging with local communities on river conservation, with a focus on education and biodiversity.
About the Team
Brett Merchant is a prospector from Adelaide, Australia with adventure in his blood. Brett did a source to sea expedition of the Murray River in Australia in 2013, mostly solo. His experience on this journey of similar length will be very valuable, and Brett will lighten up the trip with his home grown Australian humour and will maintain the balance between conservation and industrial growth needs with his career background.
Franz Fuls is the expedition leader. Based in Ermelo, close to the Source of the Vaal he has witnessed the slow deterioration of the environment along the headwaters of the Vaal River. Franz is an industrial engineer, freelance investigative journalist and adventure sport fanatic (rock climbing and white water kayaking).
Troy Glover began kayaking in Wemindji, Canada – Ice Road Truckers country. His Spring hobby is to monitor pack-ice forecasts and when conditions are right he launches his ocean kayak into James Bay, dodging icebergs on multi-day expeditions. Troy is a teacher with a BA in aquatic biology and a BEd. He is passionate about outdoor and experiential education. His unique background in science and education, mixed with his drive towards conservation will be invaluable on this trip.
WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) is a South African environmental
organisation with a mission to implement high impact environmental and conservation projects which promote public participation in caring for the Earth.
With a remarkable history of almost 90 years, WESSA has a strong track record of delivering human capacity development projects by working in strategic partnerships, thus enabling people to make more sustainable lifestyle and environmental management choices. Critical focus areas include life-supporting eco-systems such as water, energy, and biodiversity.
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