Trail running is about a whole lot more than running, it’s like a mini adventure that takes your feet to places they would otherwise never go. The Talbot Trail Run Series offers 3 brilliant excursions into some of KZN’s best wilderness just outside PMB. One of the best things about them is that by taking on these challenges you will also be supporting The Duzi-Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), a local NGO, who focus on the river health of the Duzi and Umgeni systems.
On 15 June the first event takes place at Maweni Trail Centre where purpose built trail has been created through a nature reserve. Cliff top views into the Umgeni River Valley will leave you breathless, while the ever present chance of spotting some animals adds to the experience.
The second event is truly special taking the runners to the top of PMB’s very own Table Mountain on 29 June. On a clear day the top of the Drakensberg and the ocean are visible, but the vistas of the Valley of 1000 Hills are the hallmark of this event. There is a strong community vibe at the Table Mountain event which starts at one of the local schools before scrambling up the side of the mountain.
The final event in the series takes place on 27 July at Faulklands and involves getting wet. You will either love or hate the two river crossings over the Umgeni River, but either way they add to the sense of adventure. The single track at Faulklands has also been raved about time and time again.
Each event offers a short course of about 7km and a long course of 14km. Start time is 7.30am with registration from 6.30am. Food and drink will be on sale. Entries are on www.roag.co.za and if you choose to enter the whole series you will receive the series moisture management shirt. Visit www.kzntrailrunning.co.za for more information.
ADOPT A RIVER
An article by Heather Dugmore of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust - www.nedbankgreen.co.za
‘At first the learners don’t regard rivers as important; they just see them as running water unrelated to their lives. Many also have a fear of rivers because they’ve been told frightening stories about river snakes.’ Wendy Ngcobo, an environmental education coordinator for the Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), discusses the initial attitude of the learners from 16 schools with whom she has been working in the vicinity of the uMngeni and the uMsunduze Rivers – two key water sources in KwaZulu-Natal, spanning 260kms in length.
Through a series of activities and outings Ngcobo is teaching learners between the ages of 9 and 17 about the value of rivers and wetlands in their lives, why waste has to be carefully managed and why alien invasive plants have to be controlled and cleared.
In one of the activities learners of all ages are taught how to use aquatic biomonitoring tools, such as miniSASS (a low cost water quality monitoring tool). This empowers them to identify pollution sources in real time, and assess at a broad level the degree of pollution. When pollution and E.coli levels are too high they contact the relevant water management authority, and ideally follow up to make sure they have taken action.
In another activity the stories about river snakes are discussed and shared. The learners start to understand the power of myths and that the stories served to keep them away from the water because of the risk of drowning.
‘The change in the learners’ response to rivers when they start to understand that rivers are our friends, that we cannot survive without them and that healthy rivers mean healthy communities, is so gratifying. It’s a deep feeling that you have done something right when you see them proactively participating in the management of the rivers,’ says Ngcobo.
The 16 schools are part of the Adopt a River programme, managed by DUCT in partnership with the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and the Water Research Commission (WRC).
The WWF Nedbank Green Trust is now helping to finance the Adopt a River programme in order to grow the number of participating schools and communities.
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:
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:
Just a few highlights from Duct’s work in these eight areas over the last four years have been:
HEALTH RIVERS = HEALTHY PEOPLE
Note - Water Quality for races on the Duzi River
Water is always released from the Henley Dam for the canoe races in Pietermaritzburg. The quality of water released from Henley is typically very good (less than 500 E.coli per 100ml). As this is a higher flow than the flow in the river without the release, this Henley water does significantly improve the quality of the water that paddlers are exposed to.
Interpreting the results
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.
Paddling is defined as a secondary contact sport and internationally the accepted safe level is 2 000 E.coli per 100ml. However, on the uMsunduzi and uMngeni Rivers paddlers often paddle with higher E.coli levels without suffering any ill effects. In years when the quality of the Duzi has been 10 000 or lower, the incidence of “Duzi guts” during events such as the Dusi Canoe Marathon has been low. In years when it has been high (in the 20 000 to 100 000 range) due to major storms, the incidence of “Duzi guts” has been high (up to 50% of the paddlers being affected).
After consultation with Umgeni Water and Water Affairs scientists, DUCT recommends the following guidelines for paddlers:
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.