DUZI- UMNGENI CONSERVATION TRUST
The original initiative and impetus to form the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust, or DUCT – a non-profit public benefit organisation with the express purpose of championing the health of the uMsunduzi and uMngeni Rivers – came from concerned individuals within the KwaZulu-Natal canoeing community, in existence since the first Dusi Canoe Marathon in 1951. Since the formation of DUCT in 2005 and its official registration in February 2006, DUCT has grown to include all those who are passionate about river health in this region, not only those with the inclination to mess about in boats.
In 2013 DUCT published their 8 year ‘history’ in The DUCT Story (this can be found on their website www.duct.org.za).
In his message in the publication, Dave Still, Chairman and a founder member of the organisation, said:
“Rivers do not lie. If your city does not have a functional waste management system and if too many people do not care what happens to their waste, then far too much of that waste is going to end up in the river. If your city is not spending enough on the construction, operation and management of its sewage systems, then too much sewage is going to end up in the river. If your landowners – public and private – do not make an active effort to stem and defeat the tide of alien vegetation invading their land, then fairly soon the indigenous vegetation will disappear, with all the attendant consequences.”
He also summarised:
“DUCT functions in different ways. It lobbies for higher priority to be given to any actions and programmes which will improve river health, such as the removal and control of invasive weeds, the improvement of waste management systems, and the implementation of the environmental flow provisions of the National Water Act of 1998. In many instances it provides skills and manpower to give effect to those actions and programmes, particularly where there is something new that needs to be tried out or demonstrated.”
DUCT has eight strategic focus areas. These are:
• Minimization of faecal waste in the rivers
• Reduction of solid waste in the rivers
• Reduction of industrial pollution in the rivers
• Control and eradication of invasive alien plant vegetation on the river banks and in the rivers
• Improvement of land care and reduction of soil erosion in the catchments
• Reduction of water borne diseases in the rivers
• Improvement of management of mining operations in the Valley
• Implementation of an environmental flow schedule below the major dams, as provided for in the National Water Act of 1998.
Just a few highlights from DUCT’s work:
• A study carried out on behalf of the Water Research Commission which has tackled the question of why the Pietermaritzburg sewer system is so susceptible to stormwater inflows, and what can be done about it. Several very practical and effective measures have been proposed by the study.
• The development of floating trash booms which have been installed to intercept a large percentage of the floating trash which comes down the river. DUCT maintains the booms and bags the waste they catch.
• Lobbying in various forums and media for better management of Pietermaritzburg and Durban’s solid waste. DUCT has highlighted the fact that millions of rands granted by national government for solid waste management in poor areas is not used effectively.
• The organization of an annual community river clean-up day in September each year, in conjunction with the international Coastal Clean-up and Clean-up the World days. In parallel DUCT has organized a primary schools environmental art competition, reaching 3 000 children.
• The initiation of the River Care Project, funded by the National Lotteries Board, which employed 10 teams of 10 to 15 employees each, to remove solid waste, as well as alien invasive plant species, from the uMsundusi and uMgeni Rivers. These teams also monitor the rivers for sewerage spills and industrial waste dumping, as well as illegal sandmining activities. Not only does this project help DUCT to achieve our mission and objectives, it also allows DUCT to create employment in areas of unemployment and poverty.
• The initiation of Mini SASS workshops held at various schools in and around the uMsunduzi and uMngeni valleys, by our educators Pandora Long and Wendy Ncgobo and their team. These classes educate children on the importance of river care and encourage cleaner and healthier rivers. The children are also taught the implications of pollution and littering.
• The initiation of the Durban Green Corridor Project, a joint exercise with eThekwini Metro.
• Involvement with Sobantu Community Forums to reduce the levels of industrial and sewage pollution in the Baynespruit, a tributary of the uMsunduzi.
• The establishment of active community monitoring of sewage pollution in the Howick and Mphopomeni communities, and the building of sound relations with the uMgungundlovu District Municipality to improve the management of the sewers under its jurisdiction is ongoing.
• Through funding by the Department of Environmental Affairs, Natural Resource Management Programme, DUCT employs 14 River Care Teams deployed throughout the uMngeni River Basin to address issues affecting river health, which has resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of invasive vegetation in the Pietermaritzburg section of the uMsunduzi (work ongoing).
• The initiation of a land care programme in the upper uMsunduzi catchment, which has enabled a community team to learn and practice the principles of erosion control.
• Assistance with the regular testing of the uMsunduzi and uMngeni Rivers for faecal pollution, and the dissemination of this information to the public (published on the DUCT website). Education regarding measures that can be taken to minimize and prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.
• Surveys and reporting of mining operations in the uMsunduzi and uMngeni valleys. Engagement with the Department of Minerals and Energy and other bodies about how to better regulate and manage sand winning operations continues with many challenges.
• Assistance to the KNCU, in liaison with Umgeni Water and the Department of Water Affairs, regarding environmental releases from dams on the uMngeni River. Lobbying for implementation of the ecological reserve flows (as provided for in the Water Act) in the uMngeni River.
• DUCT ECO-Clubs – 38 schools, 24 around Pietermaritzburg and Edendale and 14 in the Mafunze area participate in the Eco-Clubs programme. The schools are visited by DUCT’s Environmental Education officers once a month and are taught about water quality (Mini-Sass), how to deal with waste in their school environment and community and alien invasive plants.
• Partnership with local Msunduzi Municipality addressing the problems caused by an inadequate sewage infrastructure. 3 DUCT teams are employed to locate surcharging sewer manholes, report problems to the municipality and then ensure easy access for the municipality to clear the blockages.