/ 29 January 2008

Dusi organisers work to improve water quality

Widespread media attention over the health risks associated with paddling the Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon has resulted in the appointment of a consultant to oversee actions to be taken in order to make the race safer for canoeists.

This was announced on Tuesday by Cameron Mackenzie, chairperson of the organisers, the KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Club, who said the Hansa Powerade Dusi organising committee was committed to ensuring the race continues to be the leading canoe marathon in the world.

”The 2008 event had an international record of participants and all indications are that the event will attract more and more paddlers from other countries,” he said.

”The single biggest challenge facing the future of the race is the poor water quality. Over 50% of paddlers got sick from the water and this is totally unacceptable. The paddler is our top priority and we will leave no stone unturned to rectify the state of the water.

”To this end we have appointed Dave Still, chairperson of the Dusi Umgeni Conservancy Trust (DUCT), as the only consultant on water quality. We will publish E. coli counts as and when we get them on the official race website as we feel that paddlers can then make up their own minds as to whether they should paddle the race or not.

”We do not support the general ranks or categories as released by the panel of experts we used during the race. The single biggest problem with water quality is the state of the sewage system in the Pietermaritzburg area.

”We will make representations to the Msundusi municipality, the Department of Water Affairs, Umgeni Water and the central government to help us to solve this urgent problem as soon as possible.

”The Dusi belongs to each and every South African. It is absolutely unique. My team and I have the responsibility to ensure that we protect the event and grow it around the world.

”If the water situation in Pietermaritzburg does not change we will move the start to a place that is safer, wherever that may be. In the unlikely event of us not being able to find an alternative start that is suitable we will not hesitate to cancel the event.

”Whilst this action might seem drastic, the health and safety of our paddlers is not negotiable,” he said. — Sapa