RESTORING THE HENNOPS – the 100km Big Walk continues! Day 4

A group of River Warriors is hiking from one the Hennops’ sources in Kaalfontein to Hartbeespoort Dam. Each day they will report on the section of the river they walked or paddled.


Wednesday 12 June (Day 4): From Royal Elephant Hotel to River Place on the R511.


Willem Snyman of FRESH.ngo reports - edited by Helen Duigan - Armour



“On Wednesday morning, when we wanted to start from the Royal Elephant Hotel & Conference Centre and continued our paddle down Gauteng's most polluted river, we were confronted by a white wall of foam - three to four metres high. This shockingly surreal and absolutely disgusting site, looking like some strange alpine scene, is churned up by a small weir. This is the same site we exposed in an article in the Saturday Star last October. This time it has grown much higher - the hidden under-belly of our society.


“This persistent pollution comes from 30 to 40 kilometres upstream and shows the massive levels of pollution concentrated in the water. When the foam settles it leaves a black, tarry residue, indicative of its sewage origin. From where?”


ERWAT’s DESTRUCTION OF OUR WATER RESOURCES

“This can be tracked back to the Olifantsfontein Wastewater Treatment Works which is run by ERWAT (East Rand Water) and swallows R10 million a month of taxpayer's money. ERWAT claims "Consistent Excellence in Wastewater” and its Vision is “To be a global leader in water care and resource recovery.” What an insult to our people! Destroying billions of litres of our water resources.


“We reluctantly launched a bit further down at Zwartkops Nature Reserve into this smelly mess (talk about 'white water' rafting…!) We were in the capable hands of Rene Robinson and Hermi Cremer of Impact Adventure Africa who are based at the Hartbeespoort Dam. They are keenly aware of the eco-tourism potential of our rivers but rafting has had to be suspended in the lower Crocodile due to high levels of pollution, mainly from the Hennops tributary.

What a amazing journey through such beautiful scenery! When the water is clean and natural life returns, this could become one of the premier attractions of Gauteng.

SUNDERLAND RIDGE COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM

“But soon we came to the other bane of the Hennops - the Sunderland Ridge WwTW, run by Tshwane at around R3 million a month. It has been polluting the lower Hennops consistently for almost a decade now. Struggling with recurring cable theft and therefore often offline, Sunderland’s untreated sewerage goes straight into the river. Some years ago it was offline for almost a year.

“Currently it is spewing so much filth that the Hennops turns into a smelly dish-water grey at the effluent pipe and stays that way for the 10 kilometres that we paddled down river. The banks are lined with thick mats of floating sludge and clumps of black matter rise from the bottom, buoyed up by putrefactive gasses.

THE GOVERNMENT IS POISONING OUR PEOPLE

“What has happened to our country? We are drowning in our own filth. Is the Government incapable of managing these basic, vital services? Filth dumped into our rivers is poisoning our people and annihilating our animal life.

“We saw many vegetable gardens along the way – crops watered with this toxic water. And sold to the unsuspecting public. The Hartbeespoort Dam is part of a major irrigation scheme and a large source of drinking water. Can we really allow this outrage to continue? The people must now rise up and take back their waterways. The incompetence of the authorities is poisoning and killing us while we keep paying for their criminal negligence.

“After more than five years of trying to work through all possible channels, even appealing to the Minister, we reckon that legal action is the last recourse. Both of these treatment plants have been served with directives from DWS - with no improvement, even deteriorating.


“The rafting was tough going and we had to stop and leave the boats at the Hindu temple in Schurveberg. Our team was given a great meal and comfortable accommodation at River Place, Hennops River – thank you for your continuing support! We needed that!

“Tomorrow (Thursday) our odyssey continues through the spectacular Hennops River Valley in the soon to be proclaimed Crocodile River Reserve.”

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