Hyacinth remains a problem in Benoni

A closer look at the water hyacinth at Homestead Dam.

There is a concern about the amount of hyacinth growing in the dams and lakes of Benoni.

According to the DA spokesperson for the environmental portfolio, André du Plessis, the Ekuhruleni metro seems to be reluctant in addressing the problem.

“They are not willing to admit they are not fully aware of the extent of the problem,” he said.

Du Plessis said Kleinfontein Dam is one of the dams that need to be prioritised.

He said Kleinfontein flows into Blesbokspruit which flows into the barrage area that flows into the Vaal Dam, which will ultimately have an effect on our drinking water.

According to du Plessis, a combination of weather conditions and the nutrients in water can cause the hyacinth to grow faster.

Another factor that helps the plant grow faster is sewage.

“The reason this happens is that sewage becomes like a fertiliser in the water,” he said.

Du Plessis added birds can also be a contributing factor because they can distribute the plant from one dam to the next.

When asked about the Watermaster, du Plessis said the machine is old and has a lot of moving parts.

He said it’s been out of service for a long time and it wouldn’t be ideal to use to clean up the dams.

“It’s very slow and should it break, the parts need to come from America,” he said.

When the same question was posed to the metro, their response was there were no issues with the Watermaster although they had purchased a 12-seater speedboat to attend to the water bodies maintenance issues within Ekurhuleni.

Watch: Viking boat all set to sail on Homestead Dam come September 1

This will be in addition to the work that the Watermaster will be doing.

According to metro’s spokesperson, Themba Gadebe, the speedboat is equipped with a 200-litre herbicide spraying unit designed to spray aquatic invasive plants such as water hyacinth, Mexican lilies, water grass and many others found in the water bodies and shorelines.

Gadebe said: “The water invasive plants predominantly grow in the metro’s water bodies such as the Kleinfontein Dam, Middle Lake, Civic Lake and Homestead Dam in Benoni, Jan Smuts Dam in Brakpan, Murray Park Dam in Springs, Victoria Lake in Germiston and all other small water bodies Ekurhuleni.

In an effort to ensure efficient clearing of all the metro’s water bodies, the municipality has employed the services of dedicated staff members comprising of seven wetland attendants and two Watermaster operators.

“As a long-term solution, the metro is working on introducing biological methods such as beetles, weevils and indigenous fish species to control the growth of alien invasive plants in the water bodies.”

Du Plessis confirmed the metro is set to implement an alien invader project to try and alleviate the issue of hyacinth in the dams in Ekurhuleni.

“Ekurhuleni has not said when exactly the project will start, I’m waiting to hear from them,” he said.

On May 22, the City Times was taken on a boat ride by Peter Clayton and Derek Dingwall on Homestead Dam to gain more insight about the plant and how it grows.

The visit was due to a concern raised by Alphen Park residents who wanted to assist in keeping it from spreading by establishing some financial support to purchase diesel for the Watermaster to be operational.

After numerous meetings with the metro, Dingwall said du Plessis told residents that no community member is allowed to try to eradicate/control the hyacinth.

Dingwall has been involved with the issue of hyacinth for many years.

In 2001 Dingwall organised a group of residents to help him remove the hyacinth from the dam.

According to Dingwall, this was a great success, residents came out in their numbers and managed to remove most of the plant.

This was met with negativity from the metro, resulting in Dingwall and his team having to stop.

“The metro said it was dangerous because there were litter and broken bottles found among the plant,” said Dingwall.

“We didn’t have any protective gear and should anyone get hurt, we would be held liable.”

Gadebe said the approach towards the plant is to keep the coverage under five per cent at a maximum as there will always be regrowth that occurs after clean-up.

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  AUTHOR
Khutso Maphatsoe
Journalist

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