Palmiet River Watch

Westville North resident, Lee DEathe, has initiated a Palmiet River Watch to monitor undesirable activities as well as pollution along the Palmiet River. DEathe and his family have been living next to the Palmiet River for more than 34 years. “My kids grew up enjoying the river and the Palmiet Nature Reserve, so when I retired I decided that I wanted to do something to preserve the river, not only for my family, but also for the community,” said DEathe.

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DEathe started the Watch in April and has gradually built it up by recruiting local residents and businesses to the initiative. He has also involved the municipal officials, and they have assisted him by drafting a map outlining all the industrial businesses, storm drains and other potential sources of pollution within the rivers catchment.

“People do not realise that all of the water in the rivers catchment effects the river, for example, a bit of pollution that residents notice downstream could come from a factory or a storm drain many kilometres upstream,” said DEathe. “The idea behind the Watch is to have the community monitor the river. Once residents have noticed any pollution or undesirable activities they can report it to the Watch where the reports will be redirected to the relevant authorities. The more eyes we have are monitoring the river and the more reports we receive the easier it will be to locate and eventually prevent pollution and undesirable activities,” said DEathe.

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According to DEathe prevention is a key aspect to the initiative, and he intends to include education in the initiatives as well. “The river has been abused and used as a drain, and I believe many people do not realise that it is an asset or how their actions are polluting the river,” he said.

Helen Cannon, an active Palmiet River Watch member who has lived next to the river for more than 18 years, also expressed her concerns regarding the rivers pollution. “We walk along the river almost every day, and on most days we notice foam on the water. We used to be able to spot river mongoose and eels along the river. We have also noticed that the amount of fish and crabs within the river have depleted. I am very passionate about the river and the pollution is very frustrating and heart-breaking,” said Cannon.

“The Palmiet River Watch is a wonderful initiative. It will assist the municipality and the Department of Water Affairs protect river water quality. It is an experiment which we welcome. Increasing development presents greater challenges to protect the quality of our water resources,” said eThekwini Water and Sanitation Technical Services.

Adults and children alike were fascinated by the range of insects and animals they found in the Palmiet river water on Saturday 12 October. Nine different species were found in the river when the Palmiet River Watch conducted river health assessments.

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This followed a presentation where the enthusiastic participants were taught by environmental consulting company GroundTruth how to undertake river health assessments by identifying 13 groups of river life which constitute the miniSASS (Stream Assessment Scoring System). Under the watchful eye of Anelile Gibixego and Mahomed Desai from GroundTruth, the river health was calculated, and a sample of water was taken for later laboratory analysis.

Lee D’Eathe who initiated the Palmiet River Watch said the life forms gathered from the river and later released were used in a simple formula which showed that the condition of river health is extremely poor. “Gibixego pointed to the algae growth which covered the sand and rocks confirmed that the Palmiet river is in a very poor state. This was just one of many assessments that will be taken overtime in an on-going community exercise to monitor the health of the Palmiet river and make everyone aware of the plight of our environment,” he said.

Municipal officials registered their support and confirmed that the river watch community reporting was contributing positively to their work success. Sheila Schulte recalled the signs at the Cascades that had warned bathers not to swim because of the danger of bilharzia, and Chris Fennemore who has had bilharzia advised people to be cautious as the water could at time have very high levels of pathogens and parasites. “In the last few weeks there have been reports of repeated pollution events including raw sewage, silt deposits, detergents and chemical waste which had changed the colour, clarity and smell of the river and caused bubbles and foam.

The very existence of an active Palmiet river watch community is a deterrent in itself, as polluters will now be held accountable,” said D’Eathe. DEathe appealed to residents who are passionate about the Palmiet River and its conservation to join the Palmiet River Watch Initiative. Contact Lee DEathe on 083 461 5964 or businessunusuallee@gmail.com. This article first appeared in the Highway Mail

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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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