Farmers and estuarine management clash
Earlier this year when the Mfolozi River mouth closed, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority re-excavated the spillway, which UCOSP farmers deemed ineffective. Photo Credit: Tamlyn Jolly.
"Umfolozi Sugar Planters (UCOSP) and two farmers last week brought an urgent interdict against iSimangaliso Wetland Park to artificially breach the mouth of the Mfolozi River."
Umfolozi Sugar Planters (UCOSP) and two farmers last week brought an urgent interdict against iSimangaliso Wetland Park to artificially breach the mouth of the Mfolozi River.
The action came as the farmers requested iSimangaliso to maintain communal drainage and flood protection infrastructure to reduce the impacts of periodic flooding.
The matter was adjourned and iSimangaliso given until 17 August to respond.
Terry Castis, iSimangaliso Business Director, said, ‘Small portions of the farms situated on the lower reaches of the Mfolozi floodplain have been affected by the natural closure of the river mouth’.
‘The area in question is no more than 1.5% of the floodplain and will have no broader economic impact on other farmers in the floodplain’.
A long period of artificial separation from the Mfolozi River resulted in the estuary system not functioning naturally.
Since 2012 the river has been allowed access to the estuary via a spillway, which initiated the system’s restoration process.
The removal of the dredger spoil pile, once the tender process is complete, will continue restoration.
Earlier this year, the Mfolozi River mouth closed and affected farmers approached iSimangaliso to open it.
The spillway was re-excavated but this, farmers said, proved ineffective.
Shortly thereafter the river mouth was opened to the sea, resulting in large losses of fresh water. While the Mfolozi River accounts for 60% of the estuary’s fresh water, the area’s residents also depend on it.
Breaching may be convenient, but it disrupts natural processes and a knock-on effect is that residents, from KwaMsane to St Lucia, are left without running water.
St Lucia is the world’s oldest protected estuary, supporting high levels of biodiversity and threatened species.
It is the nursery for juvenile marine fish and prawns along KZN’s coast and a breeding area for rare birds.