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Employees of the ‘Keep Camps Drift Clean Project’ collecting solid waste that is found along the river
THE Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) has called on businesses in the Camps Drift vicinity to help the organisation keep the Msunduzi river clean and improve the appearance of the area.
Duct has launched a programme headed by Portia Vilakazi called “Keep Camps Drift Clean Project” that looks to adopt stretches of the Camps Drift canal spanning the area from Barnsley road to Ernie Pierce weir near College Road.

 

According to Sanele Vilakazi from Duct, the area, which is home to a number of big businesses, is not in an acceptable state.
“What we are doing is removing alien invasive plants that grow within that vicinity. We also remove all the rubbish and solid waste,” said Vilakazi. “We are also looking to beautify Camps Drift by putting certain measures in place, whether it’s planting indigenous plants and making sure that the grass is cut regularly. We are looking to improve the appeal of that area because at the moment it is really not at a good state because of solid waste and other things.”
While calling for more companies to work with them, Vilakazi said that they had received huge help from aluminium smelting company Alumicor Maritzburg. Through the help of the firm, Duct has been able to employ two people to work with Portia in the clean-up project and they work three days a week cleaning the banks of the river, which is also used by paddlers to train.
“We initiated this programme as Duct, but we would like to rope in more industries in that area because we strongly believe that they can benefit a lot from being a part of the programme,” said Vilakazi.

 

“If they can lend a helping hand, it will improve the appearance even for their businesses and grow their clientele.” — Witness Reporter.
The river life that was affected by last August’s massive vegetable oil and caustic acid spill is recovering well, with invertebrates, amphibians and fish re-populating the river.
 
Hundreds of thousands of litres of oil and acid flowed into the Duzi river after a tank collapsed at the Willowton group’s edible oil factory in Pietermaritzburg, affecting over 80 km of the river and killing of tons of fish and other aquatic fauna and flora in the river.
 
Pollution control officer of Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust, (Duct) Sanele Vilakazi, said the spill into the Baynespruit stream had been a “major blow and shock” to the river system, but it was now in recovery.
 
He said declining water quality was a constant issue in the Duzi’s catchment area and that the industrial disaster had made it worse. But some good may yet come from what some call the “Duzi disaster” as it focused new attention on industrial pollution as well as other issues, like raw sewage spills, which also impair the water quality in the Duzi river and the four large dams it feeds.
 
He said water tests in tributaries in the Pietermaritzburg area show ongoing pollution from sewage leaks.
 
Vilakazi said Duct had been working closely with Willowton Group to establish the Baynespruit Conservancy.
 
He said that they were hoping to turn around the current state of what is “arguably one of the most highly polluted rivers in the province; if not country”.
 
Willowton Group told The Witness that the restoration of river life affected by the spill was an ongoing process that they were committed to.
 
They said that their Corporate Social Investments team has been actively engaging with the surrounding communities on their needs, and implementing sustainable solutions for them.
 
“This show of commitment to bring about long-term sustainability towards river health is commendable, and we appeal to other industries within the catchment to do likewise,” said Vilakazi.
 
Pandora Long of the Duzi Disaster Fund, an initiative of the Lower Mpushini Valley Conservancy, said in a recent Facebook post the progress of engaging with industry in the Baynespruit Conservancy was slow.
 
Long said the conservancy wanted to act in the wake of the Duzi disaster, but felt like they were being “choked off” as there had been no correspondence or communication with them.
 
In response to that, Duct’s general manager Faye Brownell said the conservancy was still in its infancy, and a committee had not been put together yet. “An action plan is being prepared and will be communicated with organisations and the public.
 
“The preliminary engagements with the community and industry will continue through February, and formal engagements around projects will happen from the beginning of March,” said Brownell.
 
 
Willowton Group said that the conservancy would be guided by a stakeholder group called “The Baynespruit Conservancy Steering Committee”.
 
They said they would meet regularly, and that the committee comprised representatives of catchment-based community conservation groups, local civil society organisations, and local industry, including the Willowton Group.
 
“The conservancy will develop project proposals and raise funds to incrementally achieve the goal of a healthy Baynespruit stream,” said Willowton Group.

Expert highlights Duzi pollution levels

Environment activist, Sanele Vilakazi, says that raw sewerage spills into the Duzi River has reached crisis levels and unless urgent action is taken, the waterway is at risk of reaching catastrophic levels similar to the Vaal River.

 

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The Msunduzi River from the Camps Drift showing high levels of pollution. There are growing fears that E-coli levels are reaching dangerous proportions just weeks before the Dusi Canoe Marathon.

 

Environment activist, Sanele Vilakazi, says that raw sewerage spills into the Duzi River has reached crisis levels and unless urgent action is taken, the waterway is at risk of reaching catastrophic levels similar to the Vaal River.
Vilakazi is one of the staff members at advocacy group Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) whose primary task is to guard environmental health of both Msunduzi and Umngeni rivers.
Speaking to Capital Newspapers, Vilakazi said they were worried that sewerage spills appeared to be occurring on a regular basis.
“The recent development in Gauteng, where sewerage pollution levels got to the point where water is poisonous, is a warning signal to all of us,” said Vilakazi. Recently spills have been reported in Imbali, Edendale and France Townships.
The spills then flow to the small tributaries which eventually get to Msunduzi River. With summer rains having started, there are fears that more spills will occur.
“When one considers the pollution levels in small rivers that flow to the main river and the fact that there are people who live downstream and make use of the water, then you realise the importance for those on the upper side of the river to ensure that there is minimal contamination of the water resource,” stressed Vilakazi.
Raw sewerage often contains the dangerous E-coli bacteria responsible for serious health hazards, including possible death. The most commonly reported symptoms of E-coli infection are stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.
In two month’s time, thousands of paddlers will descend upon the Msunduzi River for the world-acclaimed Dusi Canoe Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban,
The sewerage spills are blamed on old and overstretched water and sanitation infrastructure and the lack of swift response to deal with spills. But Vilakazi stresses that residents are equally to blame for this.
According to Vilakazi, the fate of rivers lies in upstream communities taking ownership of their rivers and streams and caring about their surroundings.
“So it is not just a case of infrastructure backlogs but also about community education and communities taking ownership. We can be very quick to judge the municipality as the responsible party but if families and communities played their part we would be able to limit the sewerage spills,” said Vilakazi.
According to Msunduzi municipal acting spokesperson, Ntobeko Ngcobo, the municipality is aware of the sewer leaks that have been reported in parts of Edendale and Imbali and is working with DUCT to address the growing concern.

 

With the Dusi Canoe Marathon just five days away, the raw sewage spills into the Msunduzi River are at an all-time high, causing a serious hazard to hundreds of paddlers’ health.

The famous three-day Dusi Canoe Marathon race is scheduled to start on Thursday from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg, and will finish at Durban’s Blue Lagoon on Saturday.

But according to a statement by the Duzi uMngeni Conversation Trust (Duct), the state of Msunduzi River is diabolical at the moment.

The issue of poor water quality in the river has been a hot topic for a while now with paddlers worried about their safety after 66% of participants in last year’s race suffered “Dusi Guts”.

To avoid more “Dusi Guts” this year, Duct, in partnership with S-Cubed Sports, have sourced a private sponsor, Euro Steel, to purchase much-needed equipment — three high-pressure cleaner nozzles and four truck batteries to aid the Msunduzi Municipality Sanitation Branch ahead of the race.

“The very high E. coli count in Duzi water is relatively easy to determine, and the higher the E. coli count, the more likely that the water is carrying enough pathogens to be dangerous,” said Sanele Vilakazi from Duct.

“The most commonly reported symptoms of E. coli infection are stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Raw sewage spills into the Duzi River are at an all-time high and we are hopeful that this donation will bring about the much-needed change to the current situation.

“The Msunduzi River from the Camps Drift moving downstream is showing high levels of pollution.”

The donation comes after Duct raised concerns for the health and safety of race participants as sewer leaks and block­ages along the river racecourse were polluting the water.

“This is all in an effort to improve the very poor water quality numbers of the Msunduzi River, which continuously records high faecal pollution counts from results produced by Umgeni Water,” said Vilakazi.

“These four batteries and nozzles will get the municipality’s honeysuckers and sewer rodding trucks up and running again. Their fleet of trucks will be mobile again. The nozzles will assist the sanitation unit in the quick and effective unblocking/maintenance of sewers.”

However, chairperson of the Dusi committee Shane le Breton downplayed the Duct statements and said everything would be fine before the race starts on Thursday.

“That has been miscommunicated,” said Le Breton.

“Duct themselves, what they do is they work together with the municipality to identify sewer manholes that are broken and overflowing. So, what happened last is that we had a meeting with the [Msunduzi] mayor and deputy mayor to highlight the issues of this manhole through Duct and the mayor and the deputy mayor have given us full support to clean just before the Dusi.

“From that meeting, they have started with one of five manholes which were identified that cause the issues which can affect the race. If we can get those manholes completed prior to the race then we should be fine.”


Meanwhile, Umgeni Water has promised to add another significant contribution to the race with a release of water from Henley and Inanda dams to the river before the Dusi Canoe Marathon.

“An estimated 800 megalitres will be released over 26 hours, ending at 10 am on February 27. This will raise the level of the Msunduzi River so that canoeists are able to move through it with ease during the race.

“It will also flush the river, thereby improving river water quality,” said Umgeni Water’s Shami Harichunder.

The Dusi has died... but it can be saved

Durban - The latest Dusi pollution crisis is an opportunity to turn the situation of Pietermaritzburg’s rivers around, according to David Still of the Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (Duct).“This incident has refocused public attention on the health of our rivers, and sadly the long-term trend in their health is going in the wrong direction,” he told the Independent on Saturday.

“This is due to chronic, daily pollution which, in Pietermaritzburg, is really bad and getting worse,” Still said.

He called on the city leaders “to decide if they have given up on our rivers, or whether they are going to make a decision to turn the trend around”.

“It’s completely doable, given the political will.”

Still said the Baynespruit, into which the Willowton Oil spillage went, flowing into the uMsundusi and later the Mngeni and reaching Inanda Dam, had reputedly been the city’s most polluted river from a long time.

“Willowton Oil has offered to work with Duct and the Sobantu community to turn that around, and that may turn out to be a real positive development from last week’s disaster.”

Meanwhile, in the river system that Still described as having “taken a knock”, scientist Mark Graham from GroundTruth, an environmental consultancy Willowton has appointed to assess the river, said that although the pollution was not expected to go beyond Inanda Dam, one test site would probably be below the dam wall.

“We have in mind a site downstream of Inanda Dam but I don’t anticipate anything there. It’s really just for reassurance for the community and for the public.”

He expected the monitoring and investigation to wind up after a year.

Graham added that it would be vital for surviving life in unaffected areas of the tributaries to breed and restock the course of the river with the help of spring and summer rains.

Still said the distressing sight of piles of dead fish represented only the visible signs of damage.

“Many of the organisms affected are so small that the casual observer cannot see what shape they are in, but we know they will have taken a big knock.”

Pandora Long of the Lower Mpushini Conservancy on the Mpushini tributary, said: “The whole river has died. A living system that was alive for years has died out.”

She said she hoped a better disaster management plan would be in place should anything like this ever happen again. She criticised authorities for the lack of communication with people living along the river.

Nathi Olifant, spokesperson for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube, said he had accompanied the department’s environmental official last Saturday to ascertain reports of dead livestock.

“We liaised with izinduna, livestock owners, councillors and police at Msunduzi Police Station, located in Ward 1 KwaXimba, and reports of dead livestock could not be verified.

“I understand that on August 16, officials from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development also visited the area to establish whether any livestock was dead.

"None was found except that they were not allowing the cattle near the river as warned.”

Councillor Hlahlasake Dlamini, in KwaXimba, said the pollution had impacted on the people’s access to the water where they bathed and washed and watered their cattle, some of which were looking “off normal”.

Government departments said they had not received any reports of people being ill or having disappeared.