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Vaal river water lettuce invasion signifies need to eradicate water pollution

VAAL TRIANGLE - The Vaal Barrage is now home to an invasive plant species that has had significant negative economic and environmental consequences for the region, and its rapid spread will not slow down without intervention. Engineering News reports this has left the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Rand Water and local communities scrambling to get the species under control and mitigate the damage it is causing. Speaking at a recent workshop on the integrated management of alien invasive species on the Vaal river, DWS water use compliance and enforcement chief director Anet Muir outlined how dramatic the spread has been. After a series of interventions, including chemical control, had reduced the alien species coverage to 163.68 ha by March 6. However, following a suspension of the use of chemical control pending further investigations, the infestation had increased to 193.66 ha by March 16. By April, 240 ha, or 21%, of the Vaal Barrage’s surface area of 930 ha was covered by aquatic invasive alien species, including 7 km of upstream tributaries. This is compared with the 5% hyacinth coverage at Hartbeespoort Dam. Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu said at the workshop that one of the key challenges is the management of alien invasive species, which can have a detrimental impact on the river ecosystem. Mchunu said these species, if left unchecked, can outcompete native vegetation, disrupt natural habitats and alter the flow of the river. He said this not only affects the biodiversity of the river, but also its ability to provide essential services such as clean water and flood regulation.”

PHOTO: (News24)

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