SA’s water puts species at risk

The quality of South Africa’s fresh water is so compromised that the survival of some species in our rivers, lagoons and dams are at risk.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has reported that freshwater fish, amphibians, shellfish and insects are threatened.

One study of 1 279 freshwater species in Southern Africa found that 7% are at risk of extinction. Of the 94 threatened species, 78 are found in South Africa.

The species included fish, crabs, frogs, molluscs and aquatic plants. The IUCN said the study should raise serious concerns in the region about water sources that many people depend on.

The biggest threat to the species is development that leads to habitat loss, as well as loss of wetlands for agricultural use, and shrinking water resources as a result of over-extraction of water and droughts. Triggers for even further loss in the future include unsustainable dam construction and climate change.

”Figures will skyrocket unless something is done now,” the IUCN warned.

”Most developers have not taken freshwater species into consideration because they simply don’t have the information they need,” said IUCN’s director general, Julia Marton-Lefevre.

”Africa’s water resources can be developed without causing thousands of extinctions.”

According to the report the Komati and Crocodile river tributaries in Mpumalanga and the Mbuluzi River basin in South Africa and Swaziland are fragile.

Other rivers of highly suspect quality are the Vaal, the Jukskei and the Magalies, the Olifants in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal’s Umgeni River.

Several of these have unacceptably high volumes of E coli bacteria and unpublished research indicates that this pollution has filtered into groundwater.

Linda Page, spokesperson for the Department of Water Affairs, says the government spends significant amounts on monitoring water quality through the river-health programme.

The department was most worried about areas with stressed catchments with over-allocated resources and areas such as Gauteng, which have significant mining activity and urban development.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Yolandi Groenewald
Yolandi Groenewald
Yolandi Groenewald is a South African environmental reporter, particularly experienced in the investigative field. After 10 years at the Mail & Guardian, she signed on with City Press in 2011. Her investigative environmental features have been recognised with numerous national journalism awards. Her coverage revolves around climate change politics, land reform, polluting mines, and environmental health. The world’s journey to find a deal to address climate change has shaped her career to a great degree. Yolandi attended her first climate change conference in Montreal in 2005. In the last decade, she has been present at seven of the COP’s, including the all-important COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. South Africa’s own addiction to coal in the midst of these talks has featured prominently in her reports.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

Art imitates life at the National Arts Festival

This year’s National Arts Festival in Makhanda - the first live one since the pandemic - tackles unemployment, the Marikana Massacre and the manner in which black women in society are written about

Pride is a heavy price to pay

While constitutionally protected, the LGBTQIA+ community is being failed by the state

Africa’s Covid neglect poses global danger

Low vaccination levels and high number of health-compromised populations make the continent a ‘breeding ground for variants’ that pose a global risk

Kenya opposition leader selects woman as running mate

For the first time a woman is running on a major presidential ticket – a big marker in Kenya’s history. But for marginalised voters, the politics of representation comes with many contradictions
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×