Quintin van Jaarsveld
The South Coast Canoe Club has weighed in on the salt water dilemma and offered a possible reason behind it.
Club chairman and decorated canoeist Willie Kunz has been paddling on the Umzimkulu river for over two decades and believes years of sand-winning and possible unregulated sand-winning operations next to the river is the cause of the increase in salinity levels.
Kunz and his fellow paddlers feel the authorities have to establish if and/or what controls are in place and whether these sand-winning businesses are being monitored by environmentalists.
“As paddlers, we have been on the river for years and over the years, the sand-winning operations have been eroding the riverbanks and the natural rapids,” said Kunz.
“In the past, we had two rapids leading up to the sand-winning operations beyond the sugar mill, just past the Kulucrete factory turn-off going up the big hill.
“These rapids acted as a natural causeway/buffer when the mouth was closed, with the result that the rising water levels rarely got above these rapids about 500 metres from the UGU pump station.
“Over the years of operations, these rapids/rocks have now been removed to make for larger areas of sand-winning.
“For the first time in my paddling career on the Umzimkulu spanning in excess of 20 years, we saw the machines pumping sand above the UGU pump station, just before the railway bridge.
“We are of the opinion that the eroding of the natural rapids, which changed the height of the flow, may have something to do with the increased salinity levels as the rising water levels can now reach the UGU pump station and beyond,” he added.
Former club chairman John New said reinstating a weir that was in the river up until a few years ago would remedy the problem.
“This rapid, about 500 metres below the pump station, stopped any salt water that could come back. Even when the tide was full, you still had to paddle up it to the level where the pumps were pumping from.
“It was only after it was no longer there about three or four years ago that we first had salt in our water and if that is put back, we wouldn’t have this problem now or again in the future,” said New.