South African rivers are in danger. This is the message from a group of five environmentalists who, over the past month, have walked 265km from the source of the uMgeni River all the way to the Blue Lagoon in Durban.
On Sunday, at a ceremony at the Beachwood Mangroves, environmentalists Penny Rees, 52, Preven Chetty, 29, Pandora Long, 51, Pens Malinga, 23, and Mike Farley, 65, were welcomed back from their trek by Durban city speaker Logie Naidoo and uMgungundlovu district mayor Yusuf Bhamjee.
The walk began on April 30 and ended on Sunday.
Environmental groups, members of the public and members of a high-school choir accompanied the five walkers on their last kilometre from the Umgeni Bird Park to the Beachwood Mangroves.
The aim of the walk was to raise awareness of the plight of SA rivers and to take samples of the water so that it could be tested.
“It is important that we ensure the quality of water in our rivers,” said Naidoo.
Many communities depended on the water from the river to sustain themselves, he said.
Bhamjee urged environmentalists to reach out to the business community so that they could also take on an active role in protecting rivers.
In a “state of the rivers” report drawn up by the Duzi uMgeni Conservation Trust (Duct), infrastructure failure, informal settlements, dumping and illegal connections of pipes were highlighted as the main problems facing the uMngeni River.
Duct chairman David Still said it was important for communities to come on board and “adopt a river”.
His words were echoed by Rees, the secretary of Duct, who said that she hoped there would be many more such walks.
“We spoke to many schools along the way,” said Farley. “We want to maintain a relationship with these schools, and we hope that they will adopt a spot along the river to take care of.”
“The next step is to put programmes in place to get rid of litter and alien vegetation along the river,” said Malinga.
The five walkers were joined by environmental photographer Siphiwe Mazibuko and his assistant Nontobeko Mncwabe.