May Day for Rivers

At the source of the uMngeni, photo by DUCT

"May Day" is an international distress signal for ships at sea. "May Day for Rivers" is a local distress call in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, to citizens of the uMngeni catchment to help ensure the health of the uMgeni and Msunduzi Rivers and their tributaries.

On May 1st, in honor of May Day, six members of the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) started out on an epic 265 km walk down the length of the uMngeni River, from source to sea. The group started at Mngeni Vlei – the plateau above Dargle and Fort Nottingham where the river rises – and will end their journey at Blue Lagoon where the river rushes into the Indian Ocean. Along the way they will be documenting and recording the impacts on the river, in order to get a comprehensive picture of the true condition of the uMngeni River.

Howard Falls, photo by DUCT

The uMngeni River is the sole source of water for communities as far away as Wartburg, Hilton, Eston and Durban. However as it flows towards Durban it suffers from increasing negative impacts which threaten the health of the river along with the many communities that depend on it. Trash, polluted storm water and toxins from industries, as well as sewage and excess nutrients from fertilizers choke the waters, turning them from pristine at the source to a polluted soup by the time they near the sea. Cumulative effects from the uMngeni's tributaries also compound the problem: The fish in one of the dams on the river are toxic for human consumption, while the Albert Falls Dam is in early stages of eutrophication. As the river degrades it loses its ability to sustain related ecosystems, support the rich biodiversity within it and supply water to the KwaZulu Natal population.

The river walk aims to raise awareness about the importance of the uMngeni River and the problems related to the current state of its decline, along with rivers throughout South Africa. Through the course of their journey the team will engage schools along the river with water education programs and also create a documentary about their trip to share with communities.

The River Walk team begin their journey, photo by DUCT

The River Walk team hope that their journey and findings will encourage others around the world to call “Mayday‟ for their rivers too!

Show your support for the world's rivers by walking along a river or stream this weekend, or sometime in May, and in doing so join with these inspiring activists in South Africa and with thousands of people around the world who are fighting for the planets lifelines.

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