Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Reports Helen Duigan from Armour (Action for Responsible Management of our Rivers)
A group of River Warriors is hiking 100 kms 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. First leg – 9 June: Kaalfontein to the Big Red Barn in Irene. “At the top of the wetland the water is still crystal clear and joined by many other fountain streams to form a large spring-water river,” reports Willem Snyman. “However, sewerage soon turns this into a smelly, opaque mess. We located six big sewerage leaks flowing into the Spruit, plus innumerable illegal connections - toilet pipes going straight into the stream. An open, water-borne sewerage canal. “These waters are being highly polluted and pose a health hazard to all the people living nearby. Massive amounts of solid waste clog the sides of bridges with huge rats scurrying around. “Walking further down there is a large flood plain that has been ruined by a wrongly-placed defunct bridge - the stream has been gouged out, two storeys deep. Further down we came to the Olifantsfontein WwTW outlet pipe - massive volumes of filthy, smelly, poorly-treated effluent going into the Spruit. A hundred million litres per day of rotten water polluting this river - for many years now.” The consequences of governmental corruption and neglect “All the available land around this tributary of the Hennops is being built on illegally,” says Willem. “Many thousands are now living dangerously on its banks without planning or services. Here one can truly see the consequences of governmental corruption and the theft of our country's funds - failing to alleviate the suffering of the poorest and leading to the destruction of our environment. “It is shocking to see the scale of this destruction which Government seems to be allowing or unable to stop, leaving it up to the people to sort out the housing crisis – wherever they can find a place to put a shack. “The people occupying this land know this is wrong but say they are tired of waiting for RDP houses and some want to force the government to relocate them to proper houses. Most don’t want to pay rent and have just joined in this free land-grab of the best ‘river frontage areas’ of the community. Many were suspicious of us and demanded to know what Government will do. The authorities, however, just seem to be keeping quiet and letting the by-laws slide. There is definite involvement of corrupt councillors turning a blind eye or actively engaged in the ‘authorisation’ and selling off of these protected riparian areas.”
Restoring the Hennops River - assessing the Kaalfontein clean-up of 5 - 9 June
Proposed Kaalfontein wetland walk.
“On Sunday morning (9 June) we explored the envisaged Kaalfontein Trail at the beginning of the wetland,” reports Willem Snyman (FRESH.ngo). “We were joined by local representatives as well as Anton Francois Bailey from BluSwirl, Simon and Katherine Fillmore from Blue Horizon, Kyle Odgers of KleenHealth SA and the Joostes, Marlo and Karla Jooste, of Lewende Woord.
“We want to create a trail around the edge of this amazing wetland, cutting path in the invasive Kikuyu grass on the sides to make tranquil, clean park areas along the sides to save the central reed-beds.
“This wetland has survived only because of the very soggy ground which has prevented buildings going up until now. However, it is steadily being filled up with tons of building rubble. This land, which belongs to the local community, is being occupied illegally and destroyed - a dangerous situation, without the flood attenuation of the river banks and vegetation on the sides.
"During our five-day ‘Kaalfontein Revive’ we found much to be hopeful for in the spirit of the people. However, the scale of pollution and destruction left us despondent - the problems seem insurmountable. Massive invasion has happened since our last five-day campaign here a year ago. If this situation is allowed to continue there won't be a Wetland left in another year’s time."
"Without these life-giving sources our rivers will die, many already are lifeless wastelands. And the pollution is spread all the way down to the Hartbeespoort Dam and further, along the Limpopo to the sea, poisoning the lives of millions."