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R300m to restore Berg River water quality

IT will cost in the region of R300 million to remove alien vegetation from the Berg River that’s drastically affecting the water quality.

The river – 294km long – runs through several agricultural communities and is an important element in the development of the tourism industry in areas between Franschhoek and Velddrif.

Iaan Badenhorst, manager and resident at the Berg River Resort, said debris (mainly logs) and alien vegetation were the biggest problems in the Paarl area.

“The vegetation takes oxygen out of the water and affects the ecosystem. The government needs to put money into solving the problem when it can still be solved. This river is essential to farmers.

“Their business depends on the quality of the water. If it isn’t right the EU cancels export contracts, which is a major loss to the farmer and the local economy,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, Francis Steyn, said the river’s degraded ecosystem was not being managed correctly and would “drastically affect” human health, the rural economy and ecosystem if nothing was done.

“The problem we are addressing is caused by alien vegetation dominating the river system and replacing all the indigenous plants that make the natural system a healthy one with water of good quality.”

Steyn said the degraded system affected the entire population of the Western Cape because of the massive amount of work, food and exports produced in the river basin. He said it would cost R30m a year for the next 10 years to improve. The initial funding for the regeneration project came from the Department of Agriculture, which would soon be financially assisted by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry’s Working for Water Programme.

Since the project started, it had created more than 3 000 jobs.

A meeting was held on Friday when officials from the provincial departments of agriculture, environmental and water affairs, Eskom, Farmsecure, the Drakenstein Municipality, Disaster Management and the private sector discussed the project.

Source: IOL

The berg river is not only essential for agriculture but it is also an essential source of drinking water for the greater Cape Town area. Should the water quality in the river and the dam diminish this would also impact the water quality in the City.

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