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Journey of Water 2017 focuses on mining controversy

Third Journey of Water kicks off with 16km in the Mabola Protected Environment

Wakkerstroom - South Africa’s precious water source areas need to be protected, restored and valued for the good of the country as a whole – and not thrown open to questionable mining ventures.

This was the key message at the launch of WWF South Africa’s third Journey of Water which kicked off with a 16km hike in the Mabola Protected Environment near Wakkerstroom on World Environment Day. The Mabola Protected Environment lies within the Ekangala/Drakensberg strategic water source area, a high-yielding catchment that feeds the Tugela, Pongola and Vaal rivers.

The Mabola Protected Environment, however, is under threat from a proposed coalmine by the Indian mining company Atha-Africa Ventures. This is now the subject of a legal challenge led by the Centre for Environmental Rights on behalf of a consortium of NGOs.

Mining in the area has potentially serious consequences for the sustainability of the livestock farming enterprises, water resources and sensitive wetlands, as well as eco-tourism activities and nature conservation land use.

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, threats such as the one posed to Mabola are increasing.

Hearts and minds

The Journey of Water is a biennial event which brings together a group of influential South Africans who traverse a water catchment area as a way of opening their eyes to the many challenges facing water security in this country. In the process, they are encouraged to share their experiences and insights with their own audiences.

This year’s celebrity group includes Morning Live anchor Leanne Manas, Isidingo star Hlubi Mboya, HipHop artist Reason, extreme swimmer Ryan Stramrood and YFM DJ Da Kruk.

The group will traverse an area from Mpumalanga to northern KwaZulu-Natal over a three-day period from 5 to 7 June, hiking, paddling and boating through some of South Africa’s most majestic landscapes while engaging with local communities and seeing first-hand the challenges facing water on its journey from source to tap.

After their hike to a waterfall on the Mabola River on Day 1, participants will head for the Bivane Dam  (Day 2) and Lake Jozini (Day 3) in northern KZN. On route, they will take in sites of interest, among them a visit to the abandoned Makateeskop mine, various agricultural sites and Ncotshane township, where a community is cleaning up waterways by recycling.

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.

Follow the Journey of Water on social media using the hashtag #journeyofwater and read more about the campaign at wwf.org.za/journeyofwater
© Natasha Jones / WWF-SA
This spectacular waterfall on the Mabola River is one of the many sights the participants in the Journey of Water will see during their three-day adventure.

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