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 plant has, once again, spread at various points along the route in the build up to the race that starts at Camps Drift on February 13.
Having to deal with the unruly invader species is a problem that occurs at this time every year, with the bountiful rains of November and December coupled with the searing heat of late January and February meaning the pesky plant can as much as double in area in just 10 to 14 days.
The plant’s mobility is another issue that plagues the Dusi Umgeni Conservation Trust’s (Duct) efforts to control the aquatic weed as it is easily blown across an expanse of water by the wind, making it difficult to contain and kill off small pockets of the troublesome plant before they drift elsewhere. Duct’s field manager Bart Fokkens has been dealing with the hyacinth issue for years now, and is only too aware of the problems that it causes for KZN’s river systems.
“We have been spraying as much of the hyacinth as we can recently,” Fokkens said. “With the rains in November it washed a lot of it down stream which caused an even bigger problem for us and then, with this recent heat, the amount of hyacinth, particularly at the headwaters of Inanda Dam, has just exploded.”
The water hyacinth continues to be a problem during the December break, with neglect in the control of the plant giving it the opportunity to thrive in the favourable conditions. Fokkens is aware of this issue and feels there could be more done to prevent the spread of the hyacinth during this period.
“We did a lot of spraying on the lower uMngeni at the end of last year but the uMngeni Municipality were supposed to do some spraying in December, which didn’t happen, and led to a pretty rapid growth of the plant,” he explained.
In order to curb the expansion of the hyacinth, Fokkens and his team have come up with a plan to cordon off the weed in an specific area in order to prevent the wind from spreading it as well as preventing integration between dead and living pockets of the weed.
“We have a plan that we have used before — although on a much smaller scale — where we have a rope that is about 1 000 metres and we are using it to cordon off the hyacinth so that we can spray it and keep it together.”