Our Lifeblood

lion's river walk

Preven Chetty, Penny Rees, Sue Viljoen (WWF) and Nikara Mahadeo (WWF)

There are 96 landowners on the 90km Lions River – the same number as all the way from the source to the sea along the uMngeni River. “Lots of landowners mean lots of fences”, laughs Penny Rees, who, with fellow walker Preven Chetty, climbed under, over and through 70 fences on their mission to document the health of the river recently.

The Mngeni River and its tributaries are often called the ‘lifeblood’ of KZN and the N3 Route the major ‘artery’ to Durban, pivotal to economic and social development. The Midlands Conservancies Forum (MCF), in partnership with DUCT, the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust, focusses on improving and conserving the ecosystems that support the ‘water factories’ that characterise the Midlands landscape.

Last year, when Penny and her team walked 311kms along the uMngeni River, it became clear that the tributaries play a major role in its health. Plans were hatched immediately to explore and monitor some of the smaller rivers, beginning with the Lions River. N3 Toll Concession (N3TC) care about the wellbeing of communities alongside the N3 Route and are pleased to support efforts to raise awareness of the plight of our rivers.

The Lions River starts life in the Fort Nottingham area and then twists and turns through many, many wetlands before the confluence with the uMngeni just above Midmar. Wetlands are pivotal in storing and regulating water flow, however it quickly became clear that many are badly damaged and degraded. Invasive plants, particularly American bramble and wattle, are a major issue along the river, blocking access to the water for animals and transforming the river banks. The team also noted the degradation caused by excessive effluent – run off from intensive farming practices and informal settlements.

With funding from N3TC, MCF and DUCT will be conducting water workshops in 12 Midlands Conservancies soon, to inspire all landowners to take seriously their role as custodians of the water catchment on which millions rely. The connections between the road and the river – two visual symbols of prosperity and well-being – make this an ideal partnership. “All the way the mini sass scores were low – the river was never better than in ‘fair condition’. This calls for a concerted effort to improve our catchments or we will all be in serious trouble.” Penny concludes.

See all the pictures at: www.umngeniriverwalk.wordpress.com

What is mini sass? www.minisass.org

What is mini-sass?

The miniSASS method is an easy to learn river health biomonitoring tool which is to monitor river health. It is based on the SASS (South African Scoring System) technique developed in the mid 1990’s as a low technology, scientifically reliable and robust technique to monitor water quality in rivers and streams. Do you live near a river? Learn how to do a simple mini sass river health test and have fun getting your feet wet! www.minisass.org