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WWF South Africa is gearing up for its third Journey of Water starting on World Environment Day on 5 June 2017.
Along the way, they will hike, paddle and boat through some of South Africa’s most majestic landscapes while they engage with local communities and organisations, and see first-hand the challenges facing water on its journey from source to tap.
Research shows that 8% of South Africa’s surface area generates 50% of the water in our rivers yet most of these areas enjoy little or no protection. And even where protection has been granted, this is under threat from mining and other developments.
To highlight this issue, the three-day Journey of Water 2017 will start in the Mabola Protected Environment near Wakkerstroom on 5 June (World Environment Day). Mabola lies within a strategic water source area which provides water to the Tugela, Pongola and Vaal rivers.
The walkers will be joined by WWF-SA CEO Dr Morné du Plessis and board chair Valli Moosa who will elaborate on the threats facing the area from a proposed coal mine by an Indian company called Atha-Africa. This mine is the subject of legal action in a bid to stop its go-ahead.
From here, the group will head towards the Bivane Dam and Lake Jozini in northern KZN. They will also visit an abandoned mine, various agricultural sites and meet residents of a community who are making an effort to clean up waterways by recycling.
Among those who will be taking part in the Journey of Water are actresses Hlubi Mboya Arnold and Boitumelo Thulo, extreme swimmer Ryan Stramrood and YFM DJ Da Kruk.
You can follow the Journey of Water on social media using the hashtag #journeyofwater and read more about the campaign at www.wwf.org.za/journeyofwater
First two journeys
The first Journey of Water was held in Cape Town in November 2013. Participants walked from the Berg River Dam in the Boland Mountains to Cape Town over a period of four days.
In May, 2015, a second Journey of Water took place in KwaZulu-Natal. Yet again, a select group of individuals covered roughly 90km on foot and by vehicle from the headwaters of the Umgeni River in the Drakensberg to Pietermaritzburg, the starting point of the world famous Dusi Marathon.
Mabola at risk
The 8 772-hectare Mabola Protected Environment was declared in January 2014 and is bordered by the R543 between Piet Retief and Wakkerstroom to the north and the Mpumalanga/KZN provincial boundary to the south. Mabola is located in a high-yielding water catchment area at the headwaters of the Tugela, Pongola and Vaal rivers.
A protected environment is a legislative mechanism that enables landowners to take collective action to conserve an area’s biodiversity and natural characteristics.
Nevertheless, in spite of Mabola’s significance as a strategic water source area, the ministers of mineral affairs and the environment have given the go-ahead to Indian mining company Atha-Africa to develop an underground coalmine in the area. These decisions are being challenged in the courts by a consortium of NGOs led by the Centre for Environmental Rights.
Mining in the Mabola area will have serious consequences for the sustainability of the current livestock farming enterprises, water resources and sensitive wetlands, as well as eco-tourism activities and nature conservation land use.