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Alchemy can save our KZN estuaries – featuring Benoit Leroy video

Save our Estuaries with Benoit Leroy

Alchemy can save our KZN estuaries – featuring video with Benoit Leroy

Here in KZN, along the eastern seaboard of South Africa, we have systematically destroyed 99% of our estuaries.
Agriculture did this. We did agriculture.
Swathes of indigenous thickets and bush were ruthlessly replaced by invasive plants. Sugar. Wattle. Bluegum (these days it’s macadamias).
This was done before in colonial expansionist times. Nobody seemed to have a clue as to what they were doing to this planet.
All so that instead of walking places and growing our own food at home – we take taxis, cars and buses, work as wage slaves, to go buy food miles away in a grocery store?! Destroying our very habitat with each purchase.

And making those in the current revenue streams and in power, richer. And you, poorer as your earthly inheritance is destroyed for profit centric individuals and entities. Who got their positions from politics or inheritance in the first place.

Indigenous destruction

The removal of this indigenous buffer of bush has made for the inability of the earth in this region to absorb flood waters. Now it just runs straight down along the furrows and canals made by these profiteering farmers to remove the exact same water we need to stay there. Into the river that has been silted up by this exact practice. It bursts its banks. And people die.

This is what we have done.

Old habits

Things have changed. We now do have all the clues we need to make better decisions. We do not have to walk in the footsteps of our uninformed ancestors.

We have got these days, technology. Which brings forth a myriad of options on how to tackle a problem. We do not need to go back in time and use archaic failed methods to remedy modern human-made problems.

We do not need our last free-flowing estuary to suffer the same fate as all the 99% of the other estuaries have faced. Total commensurate destruction. By restricting the tidal and flood pulse. With unnatural barriers. Concrete.

We do not need to live with invasive species that have destroyed the very land which we inherited in perfect shape a hundred years ago.

We do not need to continue our destructive ways with the earth, it’s rivers and the oceans.

Desalination

Desalination. Will save the day here in Port Shepstone. Will bring water. Will bring hydrogen. Will bring prosperity to the area.

And will restore the estuaries.

But will not line the pockets of the surveyors, lobbyists, scientists, developers, politicians and others who rely on the archaic and completely unjust colonial system to maintain their big lifestyles on.

These profit-driven people want to build a concrete dam wall, or weir, right across the mighty Umzimkulu River. To abstract even more water from the already ailing river. Instead of a desalination plant.

For the same money!

Our money, to be precise.

Enjoy the picture show…

The big lie

And so here lies yet another aspect to the questionable problem of saltwater ingression.

The big lie. Saltwater intrusion to the St. Helen’sPump Station, 9kms upriver.

Even carp and bass get caught below the pump station in the dry season.

Of all the estuaries we have destroyed in KZN Natal, the Umzimkulu still holds out. As the last free-flowing river of any significance. Carp (which is invasive) - like our indigenous freshwater species caught and pictured here, use the flood pulse and free-flowing river to survive in. This fish was caught way down from the St. Helens Pump Station. In the dry season. When there is meant to be saltwater ingression. Clearly there is not.
Of all the estuaries we have destroyed in KZN Natal, the Umzimkulu still holds out. As the last free-flowing river of any significance. Carp (which is invasive) – like our indigenous freshwater species caught and pictured here, use the flood pulse and free-flowing river to survive in. This fish was caught way down from the St. Helens Pump Station. In the dry season. When there is meant to be saltwater ingression. Clearly, there is not.

In my opinion, not a grain of sea salt has been near the pump station EVER! Prove me wrong. Because I know it was raw sewage being sucked out of the river and showing urine as salt. I know because I live here. Sewage pumps into the river all day every day because local government has failed to manage the once-functioning system year after year now. Spending exorbitant amounts on temporary non-functional and wasteful, environmentally damaging berms. Totally illegally.

Zambezi sharks have only this free-flowing river in KZN in which to still breed. St. Lucia is open now but it was closed for so long that all those Zambezi lost their breeding ground. When the estuary was opened recently by conservation activists, hundreds of pup Zambezi sharks we seen everywhere in the following days. These big mommas must have been waiting and waiting and waiting. No fair.

A little baby Zambezi taken on rod and line in the Umzimkulu River. It was released healthy and spitting mad! About 7kgs. At 20 to 30cm per year, this Zambezi in the Umzimkulu would be about 30kgs, two years later.
A little baby Zambezi taken on rod and line in the Umzimkulu River. It was released healthy and spitting mad! About 7kgs. At 20 to 30cm per year, this Zambezi in the Umzimkulu would be about 30kgs, two years later. Without this estuary, this guy would have spoken Pondo.

Turtles, all 4 species we get here, use the Umzimkulu, to rid themselves of unwanted parasites. They come inside the estuary for weeks. Venturing right up to the freshwater, where the parasites can’t live. And they fall right off! Like a carwash for turtles.

Meet Tripod the Turtle. He was unfortunately hit by a boat going too fast in the estuary, and lost a leg. Hence the nickname Tripod. He was rescued by SeaWorld, but died a month later. No fair.
Meet Tripod the Turtle. He was unfortunately hit by a boat going too fast in the estuary, and lost a leg. Hence the nickname Tripod. He was rescued by SeaWorld and taken to Durban, but died a month later. No fair.

The fabulously difficult fish to catch – our indigenous Ox-eye Tarpon, lives way upriver, in the fresh, But cruises right on down to the salt to breed and spawn.

Estuaries like the Umzimkulu used to sustain 100 x more life. 100 years ago. We are down to 99% of our previously perfectly functioning estuaries. By building dams and interfering with nature
Estuaries like the Umzimkulu used to sustain 100 x more life. 100 years ago. We are at current down to 99% of our previously perfectly functioning estuaries (KZN). By building dams ,farming sugar and other cash crops. And interfering with nature.

“It’s not sea salt! It’s sewage.”

I was here when the wolf cry went out. We tasted the water even! I know what saltwater tastes like. This was sewage water in our drinking water system. It smelt. Stank actually.

I would like to make an appeal for the salt level records of the pump station to be made available to the public. It is in the public interest to see how the decision to spend R200 million or more on damming a fully-functional estuary, comes about.

UGU Leaks

Any water problems we have here are actually due to the thousands of leaks all around the UGU District. Like the one under the low-level bridge across the river – over two years flat our blasting water back into where it came from. At our expense.

April 2022 – outta sight, outta mind?

These are the problems that needs to be fixed. The system will operatee fine without the leaks. Wait until you read about St. Helen’s waterfall (coming soon).

October 2021 – same leak

How does anyone think that extracting more water from the already suffering system, will help the future? The river only has so much water and we have polluted and extracted it to a maximum threshold.

Fix the pipes! Use your endless budget to fix all that is broken. Use it to embrace and deploy the best and most relevant technologies to our problem here.

Summary

This is not the current government’s fault. But it is their duty to fix it. Or what are doing in office in the first place?

Advice to kids – don’t go into development, surveying or construction. Do research and conservation. Horticulture and aquaponics. Botany. Biology. Anything rather than end up like these guilty parties.

Use concrete for the right things. Not profit.

Words by Sean Lange. Video by Benoit Leroy produced by The Sardine News.

Come and check the river out yourself with Umzimkulu Adrenalin.

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