Mayday for Rivers 2013 Action – Mthinzima

Penelope Malinga prepared this report:

The uMthinzima is a perennial stream that starts up in the hills of eMashingeni in a place called eDwaleni. Through its +/- 10 km journey it passes through a traditional village, two different types of low cost housing areas, past the sewerage network of the Township Mpophomeni, through a wetland that is below an out of order Waste Water Treatment works and into the Midmar Dam. The different areas show different negative impacts on the water quality.

To some of the residents of eMashingeni, potable water and refuse removal is a pipe dream (no pun intended). The people that live close to the source (isphethu) still fetch water to use in their household and have to dispose of their own rubbish. Many keep large herds of livestock that have depleted the grasslands of palatable grass species leaving dry Ngongoni fields scattered with sprouts of cats-tail and rats-tail with small patches of bramble and lantana and the random Leonotis sp. here and there.

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A hundred metres from the source there is massive soil erosion where the wattle trees are harvested for firewood, building and assorted other uses.

A mini sass that was done at the source revealed Caddis-fly casings underneath the rocks, whirligig beetles, water boatman, fresh water limpets, minnow and other mayflies and stone-flies.  The score was 8.1 which is above the required standard for water that is untouched by pollution.

There were only a few patches of alien plants around, there were isolated patches of Bug-weed, Lantana, elephants ear and wattle. The variety of indigenous trees outweighed the aliens. The mini forest was filled with shiny Dogwoods, River Bushwillow, Bitter leaf, Nightshade, Tree ferns and creeping Bush-man’s grape to name a few.

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There were a few properties next to the source stretching over the edge of and across the stream bed and as the stream flows on the eastern side it is also the traditional location for the cattle kraal and there were two large kraals next to the stream, erosion and trampling was the major impact and signs of nitrification immediately after the cattle enclosures in the form of watercress growing in clumps on the stream bed.  The mini sass score here dropped to 6.1 which means it had gone through modification.

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The stream then crosses the Umgeni Water Pipe line and meets with another perennial drainage line along a stretch of overgrazed but undeveloped grasslands, across the stream is mostly indigenous vegetation of which a large cabbage tree is a spectacular sight. It flows wider after the stretch of grasslands, the water becomes clearer you can clearly see the shades of the ochre clay. This is where you see the stream recovering given only a couple hundred metres of free space and small drainage lines coming off the hillside.

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Past the small wetland below Kwa Nxamalala Islamic school, the volume of the water increases and flows stronger about a hundred metres below the cemetery.

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After the Cemetery, the presence of low cost housing development eBumnandini present the stream with new challenges of solid waste and overflowing manholes. The row of houses within 30 metres of the stream where it would be part of the floodplain were built there illegally and the sewage pipes were installed at an incorrect slope making them pack up often. It is now that the r IMG_2854

After this the stream does not get a chance to recover as one overflowing manhole after another recharge the stream for +/- 2 km. The lack of removal of house hold refuse in some area renders the stream a dumping ground for assorted rubbish.

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The uMthinzima meets with the uMhlangeni stream which is also not in great condition. It then flows through an open area below the sports fields at the start of Mpophomeni B. It is suspected that water quality would improve here if it were not for the furrows that were dug long ago to drain the large wetland the uMthinzima would have formed below the Old Mpophomeni Waste Water Treatment works.

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The last bit of damage happens as the stream flows through a run down dairy farm. This is where you see the return of medium sized wattle trees and assorted aliens plants along the banks that are over trampled and eroded in places due to the presence of hundreds of cattle. Mini SASS score here was 4.2.

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A large bit of wetland between the dairy farm and KZN Wildlife Thurlow assist with filtration and purification before it enters the Midmar Dam bay.

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And that is the journey of the uMthinzima Stream.

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About Nikki Brighton

I live in a Magic Cottage near the mist-belt forest with my African dog, Dizzy. We enjoy long walks in the fields to gather wild greens, sitting on the verandah with a pot of tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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One Response to Mayday for Rivers 2013 Action – Mthinzima

  1. Thanks Penelope for telling the story of “Heavy Tree Stream”, with all the hopefulness and the dangers. Records like yours are invaluable mirrors to us, in which we can see not only the irreplaceable beauty of creation, but also the ugly side of ourselves, and where we need to change. Keep up the good work.

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