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Monday Jan 07, 2013

Hartbeespoort Dam cleaner, set to be drawcard for tourists

Hartebeespoort Dam starts off this year the cleanest is has been for years, say water officials.

"As Hartbeespoort Dam enters 2013 with the cleanest bill of health in years, tourists and anglers are encouraged to visit the shores of the dam again without concern over pollution or the lingering stench of dead plant material," says Gerard Smit of the Harties Metsi a Me (Harties My Water) programme.

The programme is a joint venture between the national Department of Water Affairs and Rand Water, and uses ecologically friendly ways to clean up the dam.

Smit says the Hartbeespoort Dam integrated biological remediation programme has been a huge success and has received international recognition as a case study on how ecological methods could turn ailing dams around.

"Where fungicide was sprayed in the past on the floating hyacinths, these and other invading plants matter are now harvested by hand," says Smit.

"Not only is this process more effective, but since 2008 it has consistently provided work for between 80 and 140 workers.

"They have successfully removed most of the hyacinths that once covered a large part of the dam's surface, as well as 2 400 tons of litter and debris, and 31 000 million litres of algae soup.

"Moreover, 190 tons of unwanted fish species were caught and sold cheaply in the community."

"Most of the eroded shorelines were rehabilitated, and floating wetlands that act as very effective filters to clean the water of pollution were established." Smit says the harvested plant matter, litter and debris was recycled, with organic matter composted through vermiculture, which uses earthworms. Locals started earthworm farms near the dam to feed into the programme.

Petrus Venter, Water Affairs' programme leader for the dam, says the clean-up has been running for four years.

It involved dealing with the catchment area as well as the dam. The catchment area includes more than 1 000km of rivers that feed into the dam, he notes.

The clean-up was hampered by a lack of local information on how pollution affects the dam, so initially, officials had to use international information.

"The principle of this remediation programme has been one of conserving, protecting and managing natural resources towards achieving optimum biodiversity," according to Venter.

"The deterioration of this dam, used as a major recreational area for Gauteng and North West residents, as well as the water source for both human consumption and irrigation for Brits and its surrounding agricultural community, has been laid firmly at the door of humans acting irresponsibly with nature's resources.

"We now try to educate as many people as possible at a special communication centre that has been set up at the dam about the effect of ecological footprints."

The Star


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