Farmers' water battle with iSimangaliso spills over
"Heavy machinery is on its way to breach the uMfolozi River mouth."
Rain over the past week has given iSimangaliso Wetland Park officials many a reason to celebrate.
The celebration might be short-lived, however, as the park announced today they will be forced to breach a spillway designed to improve water flow from the uMfolozi River into the St Lucia Estuary.
‘The uMfolozi River accounts for some 60% of Lake St Lucia’s fresh water,’ said acting CEO of IWP, Terri Castis in a statement on Wednesday.
‘These fresh water pulses are vital to the health of this important estuary, especially in time of extreme drought.’
Preliminary calculations suggest that as much as 800 million cubic litres of water has flowed into Lake St Lucia, and to ensure the continued benefits of this flow, IWP mobilised an excavator today to ‘improve the efficacy’ of a spillway created by them to enhance the inflow of fresh water from the river.
‘We had hoped that we would not be forced to breach the estuary to the sea for a few of the sugar farmers farming in the Umfolozi floodplain, as this could reverse the gains we have made in the last 24 hours and result in the loss of precious fresh water naturally destined for the Lake St Lucia system,’ said Castis.
Events have overtaken us however, and we will be breaching the mouth.
We are extremely concerned about the possible adverse ecological impacts of this action as well as the possible knock-on effects on the livelihoods of many people, especially people living on the margins.’
Two Monzi sugar cane farmers, together with Umfolozi Sugar Planters (UCOSP), launched a court application in August to compel IWP to breach the river mouth, for ‘the benefit of a few farms’, read the statement.
An interim settlement requires IWP to breach the mouth at a point of its choosing when the Msunduze water levels reach 1.2gmsl at Cotcane.
The farmers argue the spillway was not sufficient to provide their needs.
While breaching is convenient, IWP is arguing it disrupts natural processes and creates a sever knock-in effect as residents from KwaMsane to St Lucia are left without running water.
The matter, which has gone to High Court, will be heard in May 2016.