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World Wetlands Day

By Willem Snyman FRESH.NGO

‘On this the World Wetlands day it would be good to look at the fountain fed wetlands and life sources of the Hennops River -  their pollution and destruction.

The Hennops is a very ancient perennial river fed by numerous fountains flowing off the high points of the Witwatersrand. Most of these wetland streams that they form are under great pressure from development and pollution.

Most threatened is the large Kaalfontein through Tembisa inside the Jhb area. Massive filling up and levelling of this wetland with dumping of building rubble has been happening. Shacks are built on top of this uncompacted soil which is in danger of eroding and the areas collapsing. Houses are built right next to the streams within the floodline and the people are at grave risk of being washed away when flooding - the dumped soil will also add massively to siltation problems downstream. There are also huge pollution problems with blocking and overflowing sewerage mains, as well as with solid waste, which is thrown directly into the streams and dumped in large piles next to bridges. All this gets washed downstream with the stormwater.

Another source stream through Tembisa in the Ekurhuleni area has been very polluted with solid waste, especially as it runs through the Duduza informal settlement. Here a community of ten thousand say they haven't had waste removal for fifteen years, most of their rubbish ends up in this stream. Uncountable amounts of disposable nappies, plastics and household trash are dumped on the banks and into this fountain-stream from where it gets washed downstream during storms.

Further down the Olifantsfontein Wwtw adds great volumes of pollution as seen in the white foam from the satellite image.

The strong wetland stream of the Hartebeesfontein lies above and feeds the Rietvlei dam, a large source of drinking water for Centurion. This dam has eutrophication problems seen in the toxic Cyanobacteria and Endocrine disruptors, found in an earlier study. Upstream pollution sources include agricultural runoff as well as the effluent from the Hartebeesfontein Wwtw.

The Rietspruit is another long fountain-stream system originating near Olievenhoutbosch in Tshwane, here it is also polluted by sewerage leaks as well as with solid waste. Sunderland Ridge Wwtw also adds to the sewerage problems.

The Hennops should have crystal clear waters filled with life, yet the longest river in Gauteng (100km) is also its most polluted with huge volumes of sewerage and large amounts of solid waste including plastics and styrofoam, which is very toxic when decaying. Most of the rivers natural life has been wiped out in the last decade. This river, that nourished our first ancestors, can only be restored by saving its precious wetlands, sources of life and headwaters of the mighty Limpopo river. ‘

Thanks Willem Snyman FRESH.NGO

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