Pollution is everyone’s problem.

It requires all hands on deck instead of everyone looking to a few to keep our rivers free of the rivers of waste that compromise water quality.

This is what Imbali’s Sanele Vilakazi tries to preach to everyone he meets with hopes that they will play their part in keeping rivers pollution free.

Vilakazi is a pollution control officer with the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct), where he is the project manager for the sewer line discharge as well as the general river pollution monitoring and maintenance programmes.

He said Duct’s mission was to champion the environmental health of the Msunduzi and uMngeni rivers. They cover more than 40 000 sewer lines and also monitor rivers for signs of industrial pollution and disturbance.

“Most people, especially in townships, take it for granted that water is a natural resource so there is an assumption that it will always be there but they don’t consider that their actions are compromising its quality.

“There might come a time where it will become too difficult to treat [water] to a potable standard,” he said.

The 28-year-old said more programmes like Duct’s were needed to make people aware of the consequences of their actions  — even simple things like littering. He said communities needed to learn about the ripple effects so that they will be more conscious of their environment.

“When you go out and engage with communities you realise that some of the things they do are not intentional, they just didn’t know. So we need to empower them with the necessary knowledge so that they can change the way they do things.”

Vilakazi bemoaned poor waste management practices across cities like Pietermaritzburg and Durban saying illegal dumping was rife and people also used open sewer manholes to dispose their refuse. He said there was also an ongoing problem of sewage spills and leaks, which were sometimes left unattended for days.

Vilakazi’s worst nightmare is that one day the water in the Msunduzi River would be untreatable.

“We have to do something now because we are heading for trouble. We mustn’t wait until there is a natural disaster or water becomes too expensive to treat before we act,” he said.

While they are slowly making headway in fighting pollution, Vilakazi said one of Duct’s other big challenges were illegal sand mining activities.

“We are not against people getting sand because we know that it’s needed for construction purposes, but we have to make sure that it’s done in a sustainable manner and that’s often not the case with the illegal operators.”

He said their actions had led to loss of lives as they not only altered the course of the rivers — which led to flooding — but also failed to rehabilitate the areas they worked in.

“They leave deep trenches and we’ve had cases where children drowned while swimming … There are so many of these sites along uMngeni Valley and we are really struggling to keep up because they jump from site to site to avoid getting caught.”

He said the government needs to invest more resources in the monitoring and enforcing the law when it comes to sand mining to deter the illegal operators. “Those caught need to be brought to book because delaying justice favours them so they just continue degrading our rivers.”

Who is Sanele Vilakazi?

Sanele Vilakazi holds a B.Sc in geography and environmental management from the University of KZN and is working towards an honours degree from Unisa.

Prior to joining Duct in 2013, Vilakzi worked in a diverse range of environmental industries from consultancies to local government and also gained experience working at Msunduzi Municipality after completing his studies in 2012.

He loves football and previously played for Edendale’s Special 11 but now coaches youngsters who are interested in the sport.

If Vilakazi were to have a conversation with his 13-year-old self, he would tell the teen to be more open-minded and willing to learn.

“I would tell him to also open his heart to other people so that he would be able to work with everyone he comes to meet.”

He said he would advise him not to run away from difficult situations but use them to learn because “even failure carries a great lesson”.

“When you face difficulties head-on you become stronger, it sharpens your thinking and tact for dealing with similar situations in future because life will not always be easy.”

Seven things Duct does for river health

1. Reduce industrial pollution

Duct lobbies for more extensive and intensive monitoring of industrial pollution in the river. Duct teams and volunteers provide eyes on the ground to assist the authorities to pick up new instances of industrial pollution as soon as possible.

Changes to the municipal bylaws are required to make it more difficult for certain industries to get away with using the sewers and stormwater drains to dispose of excessive amounts of toxic substances.

2. Removal and control of invasive alien vegetation

Duct has significantly reduced the riverside infestations of bugweed, balloon vine, water lettuce, water hyacinth, lantana, syringa, wattles, gums and others. They do this using a combination of physical removal, herbicides and biological control, and work closely with the Department of Environment Affairs and Umgeni Water.

3. Increase flows in rivers

Duct lobbies for the implementation of the environmental flow provisions in the Water Act of 1998, which have not yet for various reasons been implemented in the uMngeni catchment.

4. Regulation of sand mining

Duct has tried over the years to engage with the Department of Mining to improve the monitoring and regulation of sand mining activities in the Duzi and uMngeni valleys. They have had more success with the Department of Water Affairs and Environment Affairs, as well as with the eThekwini Metro, all of whom are also trying to limit uncontrolled mining.

5. Improve land care and reduction of soil erosion

Duct has a programme of improved land care and soil erosion prevention in the upper Msunduzi catchment, and has also implemented erosion control measures along the route of the Guinea Fowl portage in the Devil’s Cauldron section.

This work will be expanded if funding can be sourced from the likes of the Department of Environment Affairs Working for Soil programme. Unless land care in the catchment can be improved, siltation of the rivers and the dams will proceed at an excessive rate.

6. Investment in communities

Duct’s work over the years has resulted in employment opportunities with more than R10 million paid in salaries in the communities which live along the Duzi and uMngeni rivers.

Approximately 300 people have been employed in various aspects of environmental work; from alien plant control to erosion protection, mountain bike trail building and litter removal. A number of supervisors have also been employed from these same communities.

7. Bilharzia reduction

One of Duct’s long-term goals is to reduce the incidence of Bilharzia in the UMngeni River and surrounding communities.

Take ownership of your spaces

Vilakazi said it was easy for people to shift blame for issues related to waste management to government yet they themselves did nothing to protect their spaces.

He used public parks as an example saying patrons often left their litter scattered around when they were done with their activities.

“There is a lack of responsibility because the bins are often there but they just don’t bother to put it in there.”

He said neighbours could also come together and clean their streets instead of waiting for the municipality to send someone. He said people must also do away with the mentality that littering created employment opportunities for waste pickers.

Vilakazi also said people must start thinking about the legacy they want to leave for future generations instead of depleted natural resources and filthy public spaces.

Funding

Duct, like other non-profit organisations, is always faced with a risk of not being able to fund its river care and environmental programmes due to inadequate funding. While they get some assistance from government, Vilakazi said the private sector had not fully come on board. “There are a lot of things that businesses could help us with such as trash booms and storm water drain socks because that allows us to stop waste from travelling downstream as it collects it at intervals along the river,” he said.

A trash boom costs in the range of R20 000 and Vilakazi said Duct needed at least 200 to cover 380 kilometres of the Duzi and uMngeni rivers.

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...

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 thou...

Rush to clean the Duzi

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...

Expert highlights Duzi pollution levels

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 water...

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

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 Um...

City’s rivers of pollution

City’s rivers of pollution The sources of industrial pollution in the Mkondeni Spruit have been identified and a clean-up is currently underway.This follows several reports by The Witness dating back...

Sewage dirties dam

Sewage dirties dam Part of Midmar Dam has been declared off limits amid a public outcry over sewage flowing into the dam, which has drawn renewed attention to a historical sewerage problem plaguing t...

Toxic sludge chokes Duzi

Toxic sludge chokes Duzi A suspected burst valve which led to the collapse of a crude oil storage tank at Willowton Oil Mills in Ohrtmann Road left six workers injured and sent about 240 tons of effl...

Environmental groups condemn KZN government's slow response Dozens of environmental experts and activists are working around the clock to clear up about 1.6-million litres of fatty oils and caustic s...

Durban-Pietermaritzburg river pollution is a microcosm of nationwide water pollution control failures. Sometimes, a really bad dose of pollution news can have a silver lining. On 13 August about 30,...

Duzi 'dirtiest in years'

While the army has been called in to help clean the heavily polluted Vaal River, water quality in the dirty Duzi continues to deteriorate. And while the Vaal River is seeing E. coli counts currently ...

Sewage in the stream

  Burst and blocked sewer pipes combined with illegally discharged factory effluent are decimating wildlife in some of the city’s rivers and streams. The Mkondeni Spruit, which runs through Hayfield...

TWC raises R10 000 for DUCT

    Concerns over humans and wildlife being affected have been raised following the major oil spill in the Dorpsruit on Tuesday. On Tuesday, the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) received repo...

Streamlining water purity

    This week is National Water Week and to mark the fact, Umgeni Water teamed up with the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) and schools in Edendale to clean up streams in Imbali and Dambuza. ...

Oil Spill a threat to wildlife and humans

    Concerns over humans and wildlife being affected have been raised following the major oil spill in the Dorpsruit on Tuesday. On Tuesday, the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) received repo...

Mystery over dead fish

    An intensive investigation is under way to determine the reason for scores of dead fish being found floating in the Msunduzi River on Wednesday. Msunduzi Municipality, the Duzi-uMngeni Conserva...

Keeping PMB rivers clean is imperative

    KEEPING rivers clean is everyone’s responsibility as dirty rivers have a negative impact on the lives of many. Some people are under the impression that because they have taps with clean runnin...

Fighting water pollution

    Pollution is everyone’s problem. It requires all hands on deck instead of everyone looking to a few to keep our rivers free of the rivers of waste that compromise water quality. This is what I...

    Rivers don’t lie. An array of litter and other assorted objects are among the flotsam flowing down tributaries to the uMsunduzi River every day. The Witness recently accompanied Duzi-uMngeni C...

Duzi at its dirtiest

    The current water quality in the Duzi River is at its worst ever. Environmentalists have raised alarm bells saying “it has been one of the worst summers for water quality”, with a peak in poor ...

Duct to check sewer pipes

  The Msunduzi municipality is partnering with the Duzi Msunduzi Conservation Trust (Duct) to monitor the health of the city’s rivers. Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said they decided to partner wi...

    WATER hyacinth blockages along the Msunduzi and uMngeni rivers is an ongoing problem for the organisers of the Dusi Canoe Marathon and this year is no different as the rapidly multiplying water ...

DUCT News: August 2017

DUCT OFFICE HAS MOVED! After being well established in Popes Canoe Centre at 4 Edmond Place, Camps Drift, the DUCT office has moved to 240 West Street. Although we are no longer in sight of the uMsun...

It is always such an honour to see someone who is dedicated and passionate about nature to receive such recognition. The Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust Operations Manager Sithembiso Sangweni received...

DUCT at the Garden Show 2016

DUCT Education participated in the Happy Earth Hall, a project of the Happy Earth Forum during the Witness Garden show from 23rd to the 25th of September. With regards to putting up our stand, we got ...

DUCT News: March 2016

Our AGM in December rounded off 2015 with a good attendance and an extremely interesting talk by our Guest Speaker, Paolo Candotti, Chairman of Kloof Conservancy.   We said goodbye to Steve Cohen as...

To Frack or Not to Frack

TO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK?   Submitted by David Still, Chair of the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust, writing in his personal capacity   This article was published in the Witness on Tuesday, 3 Novem...

DUCT News: August 2015

  After a lengthy break, our newsletter is back in production! Hopefully, you have all been keeping up to date via our website: www.duct.org.za   Snake awareness training: by Sithembiso Sangweni  ...

Sandmining Rehab Guidelines

Sand Mining Rehab Guidelines The relationship between man and the resources that water courses possess can be described as one sided, with human beings being accused of over exploiting river resource...

Vegetation assesment of Mussons site

Intorduction All EMP reports require a vegetation assessment; this involves a site investigation of all plant material present on the site. This assists the developer/rehabilitator to identify those ...

DUCT Herbicide Management Policy

Herbicide management Introduction Vegetation under the control of DUCT must be managed in an environmentally responsible and cost effective manner. Various methods can be employed to achieve this en...

International Day for action for Rivers

Thank you so much to everyone for their participation in our KZN International Action for Rivers 2014 with Alex and Epworth High on the Foxhill Spruit.  For DUCT every day is Action for Rivers Day but...

Ten things DUCT does for River Health

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 qu...

Mayday For Rivers - Walkers arrive home

A Post- Walk Update from Penny Rees..... Follow our uMngeni River Walk blog at : http://umngeniriverwalk.wordpress.com/ Okay, so here I sit in Howick with the late afternoon sun streaming onto my ve...

Walking for Water

Read the "Mayday for Rivers" team blog at http://umngeniriverwalk.wordpress.com/ The "Mayday for Rivers" walking team has set off! Below is an update from the team on their first day of walking...

What a lot of Eco-Action! This year the Indigenous Plant Fair returns to its roots at the KZN Botanic Garden in Pietermaritzburg.  Since those early days (2004), the Fair has grown to include food pl...

SLIP Fair 2013

Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant Fair 2013 This year the Indigenous Plant Fair returns to it’s roots at the KZN Botanic Gardens in Pietermaritzburg.  Since those early days (2004), the Fair ha...

More From: News