The DUCT Story
"Rivers do not lie. If your city does not have a functional waste management system and if too many people do not care what happens to their waste, then far too much of that waste is going to end up in the river. If your city is not spending enough on the construction, operation and management of its sewage systems, then too much sewage is going to end up in the river. If your landowners – public and private – do not make an active effort to stem and defeat the tide of alien vegetation invading their land, then fairly soon the indigenous vegetation will disappear, with all the attendant consequences......"
The uMsunduzi and Umgeni River systems have become badly degraded through neglect and over exploitation. With increasing demands on resources, poor governance and external threats such as global climate change these river systems will be increasingly unable to support the range of aquatic, riverine and human life which is dependent on a healthy river system.
DUCT’s vision is an ecologically healthy and biologically diverse uMngeni-uMsunduzi river system that provides sustained ecological goods and services for the communities that depend on them for their survival. We envisage that our communities will show respect for the rivers and will take ownership and responsibility for the condition of the rivers, seeking to preserve their natural function and beauty.
We envisage rivers where water quality and quantity are maintained at acceptable norms with healthy natural riparian zones and where the biological diversity is preserved. We have a vision of a community where all residents possess a basic understanding and appreciation of their river ecosystems. We see government, business, the scientific community and civil society cooperating in providing the resources to effectively manage the river systems.
We recognise that the problems with the health of the rivers are large and have not developed overnight. Our vision is ambitious and will only be achieved through progressive, combined and sustained actions by government and civil society. Our role is to:
- raise awareness of problems with river health
- develop, demonstrate and encourage the adoption of solutions to these problems
- support and learn from people and communities who wish to make a difference or are already making a difference to the health of their rivers
- actively engage in river health projects, education and capacity building.
We work in partnership with other organisations, whether from civil society or government, who share our vision.
To champion the environmental health of the uMngeni and uMsunduzi Rivers
"Healthy Rivers = Healthy People"
DUCT's Strategic Areas
Duct has eight strategic focus areas. These are:
- Minimization of faecal waste in the rivers
- Reduction of solid waste in the rivers
- Reduction of industrial pollution in the rivers
- Control and eradication of invasive alien plant vegetation on the river banks and in the rivers
- Improvement of land care and reduction of soil erosion in the catchments
- Reduction of water borne diseases in the rivers
- Improvement of management of mining operations in the Valley
- Implementation of an environmental flow schedule below the major dams, as provided for in the National Water Act of 1998
Just a few highlights from Duct’s work in these eight areas over the last four years have been:
- A study carried out on behalf of the Water Research Commission which has tackled the question of why the Pietermaritzburg sewer system is so susceptible to stormwater inflows, and what can be done about it. Several very practical and effective measures have been proposed by the study.
- The development of a floating trash boom which has been installed above Campsdrift which intercepts a large percentage of the floating trash which comes down the river. Duct maintains this boom and bags the waste it catches.
- Lobbying in various forums and media for better management of Pietermaritzburg and Durban’s solid waste. Duct has highlighted the fact that millions of Rands granted by national government for solid waste management in poor areas is not used effectively.
- The organization of an annual community river clean-up day in September each year, in conjunction with the international Coastal Clean-up and Clean-up the World days. In parallel Duct has organized a primary schools environmental art competition, reaching 3 000 children.
- The initiation of the River Care Project, funded by the National Lotteries Board, which employs 10 teams of 10 - 15 employees each, to remove solid waste, as well as alien invasive plant species, from the Msundusi and uMgeni Rivers. These teams also mointor the rivers for sewerage spills and industrial waste dumping, as well as illegal sandmining activities. Not only does this project help DUCT to achieve our mission and objectives, it also allows DUCT to create employment in areas of unemployment and poverty.
- The initiation of Mini SASS workshops held at various schools in and around the uMsunduzi and uMngeni valleys, by our educator Wendy Ncgobo. These classes educate children on the importance of river care and encourage cleaner and healthier rivers. The children are also taught the implications of pollution and littering.
- The initiation of the Durban Green Corridor Project, a joint exercise with the eThekwini Metro. If fully implemented this will result in a number of tourism and environmental rehabilitation projects from Inanda to Blue Lagoon.
- The establishment of a conservancy in the Baynespruit catchment in partnership with local business and the Sobantu community to reduce the levels of industrial and sewage pollution in the Baynespruit, a tributary of the uMsunduzi.
- The establishment of active community monitoring of sewage pollution in the Howick and Mphopomeni communities, and the building of sound relations with the uMgungundlovu District Municipality to improve the management of the sewers under its jurisdiction.
- A partnership with the KZN Department of Agriculture’s Invasive Alien Clearing programme and the Msunduzi Municipality, which has resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of invasive vegetation in the Pietermaritzburg section of the uMsunduzi (work ongoing).
- The initiation of a land care programme in the upper uMsunduzi catchment, which has enabled a community team to learn and practice the principles of erosion control.
- In partnership with Umgeni Water, WSP Environmental and Talbot Laboratories the regular testing of the uMsunduzi and uMngeni Rivers for faecal pollution, and the dissemination of this information to the public (published on the Duct website). Education regarding measures that can be taken to minimize and prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.
- Aerial surveys of mining operations in the uMsunduzi and uMngeni valleys. Engagement with the Department of Minerals and Energy and other bodies about how to better regulate and manage sand winning operations. Reporting of illegal sand winning operations.
- Assistance to the KNCU in liaison with Umgeni Water and the Department of Water Affairs regarding environmental releases from dams on the uMngeni River. Lobbying for implementation of the ecological reserve flows (as provided for in the Water Act) in the uMngeni River.
HEALTHY RIVERS = HEALTHY PEOPLE
Improved Water Quality
We lobby for improvements to the sewage infrastructure and the operation and maintenance of that infrastructure in Pietermaritzburg and Durban. We also keep an eye on water quality in the Duzi (particularly before major races) and regularly patrol the main bulk lines to look for spills. In Pietermaritzburg budgets of over R400 million have been approved for improvements to the Darvill Sewage Works and to the city’s main sewers, which will make a difference as improvements are made over the next 5 years. A 3 year programme is also underway to reduce stormwater ingress into sewers, which is one of the main causes of sewage spills during and after rainfall. We meet regularly with the authorities to discuss progress and share ideas. Meanwhile DUCT continues to lobby for better equipment for the municipal teams which perform the unpleasant and thankless task of keeping our sewers unblocked.
DUCT lobbies for more resources to be allocated to the important task of keeping sewage in the sewers
Reduced Solid Waste in the river
On a practical level DUCT has established, maintains and regularly clears a 100 metre long trash boom which catches much of the solid waste that floats down the river from the Duzi catchment above Campsdrift. Among other things that DUCT regularly removes from this boom are dead goats and dead dogs.
Since its inception DUCT has lobbied for improved solid waste management, particularly by the Msunduzi Municipality which has dropped this ball in recent years. We understand that a new municipal programme has recently been launched which will extend solid waste removal services to many areas which have had no service for the last seven or eight years. This should make some difference.
Meanwhile for the last three years (July 2010 to June 2013) we have had nine River Care Teams operating on the uMsunduzi and uMngeni Rivers. Their responsibilities have included pollution monitoring, solid waste removal and alien vegetation clearing. The lottery grant which funded this work ended in June 2013 but the work still carries on at a reduced scale with 4 teams on the river between Inanda and Blue Lagoon (funded by eThekwini through the Durban Green Corridor programme), two teams doing alien vegetation clearing in the Duzi catchment funded by the Department of Environment Affairs, and one team active in Pietermaritzburg funded by DUCT with partial funding from the IDT.
In 2006 DUCT organised the first voluntary River Clean-up day, which since then has taken place each year on the same day as Coastal or Beach Clean-up day and Clean up the World Day (annually on the third Saturday of September). DUCT supporters also independently carry out voluntary river clean-up activities at times and places of their choosing. At NCC Bruce Baxter co-ordinates a group which has been faithfully doing 2 hours of voluntary work on the first Saturday of most months since 2006.
DUCT has developed and maintains an innovative “Trash Boom” that catches solid waste above the Campsdrift Canal on the Msunduzi River
Note - Water Quality for races on the Duzi River
If you are a microbiologist or a seasoned paddler the stats above might mean something to you… but if not, you might find the following table useful when trying to interpret what the E.coli count means for you as a paddler.
E. coli bacteria occur naturally within mammal digestive systems and most of them are not harmful in any way. However, because they are so common E. coli data are considered useful as a general indicator of a wide range of other potential human pathogens, and thus also of the possible presence of sewage related water quality problems. In the absence of other data, E. coli numbers are useful in allowing a general assessment of other potential water quality risks.
|E. coli count/100mL||Water quality “assessment”||Assessment of probable risk to canoeists|
|*0 – 130||Considered acceptable for full contact recreation – excellent / likely natural catchment||Extremely low risk|
|130 – 1 000||Good – within the range expected for quite good catchment conditions, but significant / increasing risk of illness if used for full contact recreation||Very Low risk|
|1 001 – 4 000||Fair resource condition, natural sources (i.e. not people) are still possibly the E. coli source, but increasing likelihood of human faecal / sewage contamination. Unacceptable for swimming||Low, but increasing risk|
|4 001 - 10 000||Degraded - Significant faecal input or some sewage contamination is indicated. Other water quality parameters are likely to be poor||Moderate risk (approx. 1 in 10 may get sick)|
|10 001 - 25 000||Unacceptably Poor, sewage contamination definitely present||Moderately high canoeing risk (approx. 1 in 5 may get sick) – some likelihood of illness esp. in white water|
|25 001 - 50 000||Bad, with significant environmental consequences||High risk (approx. 1 in 3 may get sick) – consider not canoeing or paddle on flat water only, with no risk of falling out|
|>50 000||Severely contaminated||Very High canoeing risk – (approx. 1 in 2 paddlers may get sick)|
*Note, the only acceptable value for drinking water quality is ZERO per 100 mℓ. No naturally occurring surface water should be expected to have E. coli this low (even in large dams). If zero E. coli results are achieved for a natural water, contamination by disinfectants is the likely cause
Thanks to Talbot Laboratories, Umgeni Water and WSP Environmental for monitoring the water quality in Durban and Pietermaritzburg on a weekly basis. DUCT does additional sampling at strategic times and places.