Environment matters: our precious rivers

Note: these blogs appeared for the first time as columns in the Newcastle Advertiser (Caxton)

I was walking by the river one day and witnessed a truly sad scene, fish were floating everywhere and the water was bright green.  A smell like hell filled the air, everywhere was death and for a moment I thought to myself, this must be a nightmare…

Sadly this isn’t a bad dream and is in fact the fate of many rivers in South Africa.  The state of our rivers has been the focus of many articles and social media campaigns but the pollution persists and rivers that originate as clean streams in mountainous areas become cesspools when they enter most towns.

So why does this matter?  The answer is that our environment provides us with many free services that we take for granted.  From the air we breathe to the plants that rely on insect pollinators (to eventually provide us with food), and of course our water supply that originates in mountain streams before being piped to us after being further purified.  If we do not take responsibility for our destructive actions, we will perish as a species too.  It is everyone’s duty to keep our environment clean because besides being the right thing to do, it is also in our best interests as a species.

The famous Chief Seattle put it eloquently: “Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.” 

What actions can you take?  Here are a few simple ideas to implement or inform others about…

  1. Don’t litter – anywhere!  (it eventually washes into storm water drains and ends up in the river further polluting it)
  2. Dispose of industrial oils and other waste via a proper landfill site and do not pour this form of waste into drains (which is also illegal to do)
  3. Spread awareness to friends, colleagues and authorities about illegal dumping and try to capture evidence of when it happens
  4. Report sewerage leaks whenever you see them – there is currently no guarantee that Municipalities will attend to your report but at least an official record is kept of the problem and hopefully it is addressed with enough people reporting the same problem
  5. Consider establishing an environmental action group to address the issues locally in your neighbourhood – strength in numbers does make a difference.

*Angus Burns is a professional conservationist and works for WWF South Africa. These blogs are done in his personal capacity*

Rivers are often clean at their source but end up as cesspools after they enter urban areas

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