Community removes 70 tonnes of water lettuce from Vaal River while government drags its feet

Several organisations, recreation clubs and community members gathered at the Vaal River Lodge on 28 January to launch a large-scale clean-up operation. Together, these role players removed 70 tonnes of water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) from the Vaal River – nine trucks full of water lettuce were driven away.

This water lettuce has been growing in the Vaal River for some time now and poses a threat to the aquatic ecosystem. Despite the disadvantages, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) have still not announced a plan of action to get rid of the harmful water lettuce. The spread of this invader is now such that boats cannot even pass through in some places. Regardless of the number of letters and conversations with the various departments, there is still no indication of what they are going to do about this.

According to Jaco Grobbelaar, AfriForum’s Regional Head for the central region, this action went well and the community made a remarkable difference in the area where the action took place. “We could see a significant difference in the area where we worked. We removed a lot of water lettuce in a matter of four hours. Although 70 tonnes of water lettuce is little compared to the amount that is still left in this river, we believe that large-scale efforts like this can help to reduce the damage to the ecosystem,” says Grobbelaar.

However, AfriForum is convinced that if the government does not do its job to keep South Africa’s rivers and other natural resources clean and to conserve them, then communities will start to step in and take this task upon themselves. “We simply will not stand by and watch as our natural resources are destroyed,” adds Grobbelaar.

On Saturday, February 3, AfriForum and other role players will host another clean-up action in Vanderbijlpark and Sasolburg to remove more of this water lettuce. Specific removal points will be identified. If volunteers with boats are willing to use their boats and help with the removal it will be greatly appreciated – this will involve pushing the water lettuce to various points where it will then be taken out.

“The ecosystem is being damaged, the value of property along the river is drastically decreasing and businesses that depend on recreational activities such as boating and fishing are also suffering. If drastic action is not taken now, this situation will play out like the hyacinth crisis of the Hartbeespoort Dam and we cannot afford it,” says Lambert de Klerk, AfriForum’s manager of Environmental Affairs.

Add your voice to this cause by following this link. If you want to get involved in the cleaning actions, feel free to call Jaco Grobbelaar on 066 565 8108 or Laurel Young on 082 883 705.

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