reports Helen Duigan from Armour
A group of River Warriors is hiking from one its sources in Kaalfontein to where it meets the Crocodile River. Each day they will report on the section of the river they walked.
Monday 10 June (Day 2): Twenty kilometres from the Big Red Barn in Irene to Lewende Woord in Centurion.
“What a river of contrasts!” exclaimed Willem Snyman (FRESH.ngo). “Inundated by a nauseating sewerage smell and thick white foam, the Hennops must be by far the most polluted river in Gauteng. The saddest part is seeing all these amazing freshwater fountain streams flowing into the Hennops - only to instantly become highly polluted.”
“At the confluence area where the Hennops ‘officially’ begins, the division can be seen clearly where the clean water from the Sesmyl Spruit meets the highly polluted Olifants Spruit – sweeping down massive volumes of garbage. The plastics hang in the trees like some perverse ornamentation. What an indictment - our sick society killing our ancient Mother Earth without blinking an eye - people scurrying after money while our planet is dying.
Willem, the visionary activist, is normally calm and totally focussed on saving the Hennops, but even he is shaken by the enormity of the threat to the river.
“The pollution from overflowing mains in Tembisa combined with the malfunctioning Olifantsfontein Wastewater Treatment Works of ERWAT has been killing this river for many years. It is now a foul-smelling opaque mess. This wonderful life source has become a health hazard - poisoning our people and country, destroying pristine eco-systems – affecting everything and everyone for thousands of kilometres down to the Indian Ocean.
“Much of the river water is still used for agriculture – some of it right on the river’s banks - forming a toxic cycle that returns these pollutants to the cities inside food crops.
“At the Agricultural Research Council weir we came across a beautiful River Frog sitting forlornly in the path - most of its habitat destroyed, the river foaming massively and smelling terrible.
“Have we now become a plague - a parasitic species unfeelingly killing its host only to eventually succumb, drowned in our own toxins and waste?”
The group (this time consisting of Willem, Anton Bailey, Stefan de Beer, Rene Robinson and Hermie Cremer) blocked by a massive electrified fence stretching right down to the river bank, had to detour around the Centurion Golf security estates as they didn't all have their IDs.
“The Hennops has now become a polluted no-man's land, the greatest asset of Centurion, neglected and filled with weeds, aliens, plastics, impassable in certain areas with fences going right down to the bank.
“At Centurion Lakewe were heartened to see a great Heron in this wetland -forming such an effective filter that the water on the right bank is clear, with more than a meter visibility! This nature area is under imminent threat from development into an 'urban park' that will completely alter it at a huge cost of R30 million, without really improving it or the river quality.
“We will be fighting to preserve this wetland. A much more sensible approach would rather be to save it and restore the natural vegetation, turning it into a beautiful and tranquil asset for the public. Centurion is blessed with this amazing green corridor of the Hennops running through its heart, yet it is sadly neglected by most of its people. These highly valuable riparian lands are being destroyed and now greedily eyed by developers.
“The river must be restored as a green corridor and parkland for ALL its people, where man and nature can co-exist in these spectacular natural surroundings; to ensure that these life-giving waters pass through pure and clean, to enrich the lives of all our people and eco-systems downstream. Our country's health will be greatly improved and the massive loss of bio-diversity halted - as most lives are intimately tied to fresh water.”