Mayday for Rivers

You may have been wondering at the title of the uMngeni River Walk – Mayday for Rivers?  Well, obviously it begins on the first of May, known around the World as May Day, and is also an international distress call.  This is a call for help for our precious rivers – some of which are in serious trouble.

So far in this blog we have mostly shown beautiful photos of the uMngeni – now it is time for a dose of reality.  Here is a list of some of the things which have a negative impact on the uMngeni (and other rivers) and affect the quality of our water.

Alien weeds choke the streams and erode the river banks.

Clearing on flood plains causes erosion and siltation of the river.

Industrial effluent and waste kills plants and animals – these fish died from a milk overflow!

Plastic and other rubbish discarded into rivers kills animals and eventually ends up in the sea where it breaks down to toxic microscopic particles ingested by wildlife.

Nutrification – below the waste water treatment works, high levels of nutrients form a sludge which covers the rocks and destroys much of the natural river life.

When manhole covers are lost, broken or removed, litter collects in the hole and causes blockages and pollution.

Untreated overflows from badly managed pump stations pour sewage straight into the river.

Illegal abstraction of water causes damage to river banks and reduces the amount of water available to downstream users.

Litter – causes blockages and destroys river life.

Invasive vegetation smothers naturally occuring plants and changes the eco-system.

All sorts of non-biodegradable items are disposed of in the sewerarge system which causes blockages at the pump station and have to be removed manually and disposed of at the landfill site.

High levels of nutrients in the water below treatment works encouge watercress to flourish – displacing the natural vegetation and impeding the flow of the river.

Blocked sewers cause raw sewage to overflow and eventually drain into the nearest river or stream.

Timber planted too close to the river uses vast amounts of water.

Careless building contractors cause erosion and siltation.

Waste water treatment plants don’t actually clean the water so well that it is back to it’s original state!

Rapid growth of algae is caused by high levels of nutrients and robs oxygen from the water and kills fish and other creatures.

When the screens at the Pump Station get blocked with rubbish that shouldn’t be in the sewerage system, it backs up and overflows.

This is the outlet from the Howick waste water treatment works (sewage treatment works) at Shiyabazali where is flows back into the uMngeni River.

So there you have it – our inspiration. The urgent call is MayDay for Rivers!


About Nikki Brighton

I live in Howick, between the river and the hills. I enjoy pre-dawn walks in the streets with my dog, sitting on the veranda with crochet and tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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