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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 a director and welcomed Francois Talbot in his place. Steve has been a most valuable member of the DUCT board but has been appointed as Treasurer of the newly established Durban based Green Corridors non-profit company, so needed to free up time for that responsibility.  DUCT has been instrumental in the formation and establishment of Green Corridors through its predecessor, the Durban Green Corridor programme.
The SANBI Groen Sebenza project came to an end in 2015 and Livhu Ndlovu left to become a mother while Sanele Vilakazi and Kholosa Magudu became permanent staff members.
We were sad to also say goodbye to John Butler who had been with DUCT since late 2006. John has done a huge amount for DUCT and apart from his professional contribution he has also been a mentor and something of an uncle and father figure to our mostly young staff over the years.
Water Safety Training for DUCT River Care Teams – by Kholosa Magudu
DUCT River Care teams working directly on river banks such as Camps Drift, Sobantu and at the No. 9 area recently received water safety training by Bart Fokkens. The training included identifying dangers such as the weather, time of day, waterborne disease prevalence, etc.  Emphasis was on the use of protective gear and safety equipment and the participants were taught rescue procedures, staying afloat using floatation aids and drown proofing. Drown proofing entailed safety under water by holding breath, blowing bubbles and avoiding panic.  For most participants it was their first time under water and most, including myself overcame the fear of water with great effort. 
Success story: Simphiwe shares his experience
One of the participants, Simphiwe Sibiya is one of DUCT’s employees working in the Camps Drift River Care team. Like me, it was his first time under water. He felt challenged and scared of the ordeal of getting his head under water. It was then that we realised that water safety training is simply not glorified swimming lessons!
Simphiwe said “For some of us water safety has been, well, merely about a long silent prayer, clenching of teeth or holding on to a boat for dear life when in water until DUCT offered the water safety training course”.He further shared with his family and colleagues that he felt privileged to have undertaken this kind of training and triumphant because he had such an eventful training day. 
All thanks go to DUCT’s Bart Fokkens for offering the training to our River Care Teams with such vigour and patience. In my experience, this was one of many ways in which DUCT builds the capacity of its employees and strives to create a safe working environment for all. 
DUCT River Care Team employees undergoing Water Safety Training                        A classic “pair -of –trousers” life jacket
DUCT/Msunduzi Municipality address sewage leakages and the general pollution of the Msunduzi River – by Sanele Vilakazi
DUCT, in conjunction with the Msunduzi Municipality, and in compliance with national environmental legal requirements, is currently working to reduce sewage leakages and surcharges as well as solid waste and other forms of pollution released into the Msunduzi River system. 
This joint initiative is to contribute towards improved community and river health and open space management within the Msunduzi Municipality. Throughout the duration of the project approximately 150 kilometres of bulk sewer lines with a record of high incidence of sewerage discharge into the Msunduzi River will be cleared. A sewer line and pollution monitoring system has been established. An educational programme to raise public awareness of the contributing factors to sewerage blockages and to secure community support for the monitoring and reporting of leaking, blocked and surcharging sewer system will be provided.
Once established, these sewer access routes will be integrated into a series of trails and commuter paths. This will also create an enabling environment for local economic development through eventing (MTB multi-sport, trail and guide tourism and township trails).   
Field teams out on site clearing sewer line corridors/pathways for easy accessibility.
MIDMAR MILE: 16 Mile Challenge
This year DUCT was privileged to be appointed the designated charity for the new Midmar Mile 16 Mile Event (inspired by SA’s Olympic medallist Terence Parkin who first performed this feat several years ago).    Ten swimmers committed to swim 16 Miles over the Midmar Mile weekend, meaning they swam each of the 8 events (four on Saturday and four on Sunday), and also swam over to the start for each mile instead of going over by boat or around by bus.  Not only did they take on this major challenge, but each of them also undertook to raise R20 000 for DUCT.  Sadly two of the would-be swimmers had to pull out due to ill health shortly before the weekend, but both are hoping to be back next year.
DUCT provided a paddling escort per swimmer who paddled alongside on a sit-on-top ski and ‘watched over’ and supported their swimmer during the 16 Miles. This meant that the organizers could see at any time exactly where each of the 16 mile swimmers was located.  Our sincere thanks to our faithful paddlers who did this duty.  We were proud to be associated with the organisers and congratulate the 8 super-fit swimmers who completed the 16 Miles over the two days. It was both an inspiration and a pleasure to be associated with such athletes.  The youngest of the swimmers was 16 year old Keli Reynolds, daughter of well-known local paddler Kenny Reynolds.  The other female swimmer was 17 year old Epworth girl Georgia-Mai Ng-Yu-Tin.
Legends in the making!  The Midmar 16 Milers, plus Wayne Riddin, looking cheerful before starting their first swim
From Left:  Kelvin Steyn, Gary Albertyn, Owen Sheftz, Shane Le Breton, Reegan Tait, Georgia-Mai Ng-Yu-Tin, Keli Reynolds, Royden Tustin, Wayne Riddin (Midmar Mile Organiser)
In spite of many fears around the water quantity due to the present drought conditions, the Dusi Canoe Marathon was another resounding success with the Charity Batch being fully subscribed. 
The contributions made by the Charity Batch paddlers goes towards enabling us to continue our involvement in ensuring the future of the race in terms of water quality monitoring, tree block and solid waste removal prior to the event taking place.   Unfortunately the water quality was not great this year and DUCT continues to lobby all the major stakeholders to devote more resources and efforts towards cleaning up the Duzi River in the long term.
Well done to DUCT Chairman, Dave Still, for completing his 10th Dusi this year and receiving his permanent ‘Green Number’!
DUCT’s River Care Teams were once again involved with the removal of tree-blocks and litter from numerous sites along the Dusi Canoe Marathon route prior to the start of the iconic event.
One of the more unusual activities was the replacement of ‘broken slats’ at the YMCA weir which helped channel more water down the fish-steps, making it easier for canoeists to navigate this obstacle.
Teams in action!
A team of seven people – ‘informally employed’ at the New England Landfill Site – were recently given the opportunity to assist DUCT remove litter and Alien Invasive Plants from the Dusi and Blackburrow Rivers adjacent to the Landfill Site.  This project was made possible by funding through DUCT from the IDT programme.  This enthusiastic, motivated team has done a great job in helping DUCT extend its footprint regarding our River Health Projects in the uMngeni Basin.
DUCT in partnership with Groundwork and a local cafeteria, Sagewood, situated on the banks of the Dorpspruit, have joined forces with the abovementioned Landfill ‘Pickers’ in a re-cycling initiative which will help get the Pickers off the unhealthy and dangerous landfill site as well as giving them the opportunity  to become efficient re-cycling entrepreneurs. For more information contact Doug on 033 345 7571/082 825 8425.
Enviro Champs fixing leaking taps and toilets in Mpophomeni February 2016 – Liz Taylor
There is a group of 20 Enviro Champs working in Mpophomeni and Howick (KwaMevana and Shiyabazali). They are the “environmental” eyes and ears of the community and also conduct door-to-door education campaigns.  This initiative was born out of a partnership between uMgungundlovu District Municipality and DUCT.  
Last week Nhlonipho Zondo and two of his colleagues on the Enviro champs team (Nomtha Sikhakhane and Sihle Mnikhati) were made aware that the toilets at Qhamukile School were blocked and leaking and that there were many leaking taps wasting fresh water. They approached the school and spoke to the principal to ask if they could help.  The principal Ms Thembi Mbanjawa was delighted and offered to pay for the few hardware items that were needed.  Nhlonipho, Nomtha and Sihle spent 3 days fixing the toilets and leaks.
The school is happy to say that they now have 7 girls toilets working (one still blocked and needs to be fixed by the UMDM plumbers) and 8 boys toilets working. They also fixed a number of fresh water leaks.
Yours in conserving the Duzi and uMngeni Rivers,
The DUCT team