How do you respond to a community who are facing the future impacts and threats of phase two of the Mooi-uMngeni Transfer Scheme, initiated in the mid 1980’s when phase one of this scheme came into operation, transferring water from Mearns Weir on the Mooi River into the Mpofana, a tributary of the uMngeni?
Today, with phase two (Spring Grove Dam and transfer) close to completion, this community faces the threat of inundation of lowlands and causeways, cutting off access to parts of their farms,
loss of land and damage to buildings through erosion,
decline in the ecology of the river, canalisation i.e. the straightening out and acceleration of water flow and erosion of banks, and future lack of seasonal variation in flow – the highs and lows which are part of the healthy riverine ecology.
From a macro picture the two big threats that affect rivers with transfer schemes worldwide, are transfer of nutrients, invasive plants and other contaminants from the transferring catchment, in this instance, the Mooi River. Transfer schemes are recognised as contributing to the reduction in riverine ecology and reducing the lifespan of dams through siltation.
These are some of the issues that came under discussion at a meeting of the Balgowan Conservancy last night at the home of chairperson, Yvonne Thompson, where members heard a summary of the three day Mpofana riverwalk by team leader, Penny Rees.
There are so many impacts within the 32m buffer and associated wetlands, potentially affecting the Mpofana such as: the uMgeni pipeline,
buildings; homes and pump houses,
a cemetery under construction,
eroded livestock access points,
and alien vegetation including black and silver wattle, bramble, encroachment of timber plantations
and escaped garden species.
It must be noted that any disturbance of the natural riparian vegetation along the river banks will invite the presence of alien species, erosion, loss of soil health and biodiversity. This loss, negatively impacts the health of the river.
It is heartening to note the extensive work being done by the Balgowan Conservancy and landowners along the river to address some of these issues and in particular the eradication of alien invasive species.
A huge congratulations and thank you to everyone involved in this valued work.
It’s been a pleasure walking the Mpofana river and these are some of the considerations that we have held in mind as we made sense of our observations and make initial interpretations of the data collected. We are grateful for the support and enthusiasm of the landowners along the route and it is wonderful to interact with such a close community that cares so much about the river and the future of their valley.
We would like to thank Yvonne Thompson for hosting the riverwalk team, for her kindness, generosity and hospitality in accommodating us in her beautiful home at Caversham Hall. Thank you to Midlands Conservancies Forum for securing funding from N3TC to cover the costs of exploring the tributaries of the uMngeni River.
We wish the Balgowan Conservancy everything of the best as they continue their efforts to ensure the health of the Mpofana River and the well-being of the Balgowan community that act as custodians of this beautiful little river and all its tributaries.
Some recommendations to improve the health of the Mpofana include:
- Tackle newly emerging alien invasive species as part of regular farm work on an on-going basis, prioritising riparian areas.
- Based on the pending Mpofana Riverwalk Report develop a strategic plan and source funding for prioritising, implementing and coordinating the alien invasive species eradication programme.
- Target particularly invasive species which are not necessarily common invaders in this catchment, for example, Camphor, Privet and Syringa, Catsclaw before they become a future threat.
- Prepare a long term strategy for reducing and eliminating invasive garden escapees such as; canna/Indian shot, Japanese honeysuckle, Periwinkle, Wondering jew, London Plane tree, Pyracanthus (Fire thorn)
- Ensure all new development goes through the appropriate planning process that ensure any application for development within the 32m buffer zone undergoes the necessary EIA and other planning process.
- As far as possible, limit or reduce livestock access to the river banks and into the river.
- Develop a plan for the withdrawal and appropriate re-siting of existing intrusions into the 32m buffer.
- Re-site waste pits to outside the 32m buffer (consider recycling the bulk of landfill at a local recycling centre)
- Avoid mowing in the 32m buffer, allowing for the regrowth of indigenous vegetation as habitat for riverine species, including invertebrates which are key species for river health.
- Ensure all dams release some water back into the stream to ensure that the stream remains healthy and does not dry up. This is usually done by means of a pipe built into the lower section of the dam wall so that there is always a flow of water being released. These pipes sometimes block and stop functioning and need to be checked regularly.
Some recommendations for addressing the future threats of the Mooi-uMgeni transfer include:
- Monitor your stretch of your river, measure the size and depth of the channel, take regular photographic evidence.
- Be in contact with the ECO (environmental compliance officer) for the MMTS pipeline and insist on regular updates and community interaction.
- Obtain a copy of the EMP (Environmental Management Plan approved as part of the ROD (Record of Decision) and check that this is being followed.
- Constitute a Water Users Association as legislated within the Catchment Management Agency framework to legalise and protect your water rights and to enable recognised interaction with respect to both the health of the Mpofana and the impact of the transfer scheme.
- Know and take up your rights with respect to public participation and protection of the environment and don’t give up in the face of the challenges facing the Mpofana and its community as custodians of this river and its significance within the greater context of Kwazulu-Natal.
The DUCT River Walk Team
Penny Rees, Preven Chetty, Pandora Long, Moraig Peden and John Fourie