Sand miners bled Umvoti dry
Welcome Mdabe said before sand mining, the Umvoti River water level used to reach the top of the grey cement part of the extraction tower
"Umvoti River sand is allegedly highly sought after."
The people of KwaDukuza are paying the price for years of illegal sand mining on the Umvoti River.
Welcome Mdabe, Ilembe district municipality (IDM) mayor said illegal sand miners, with no regard for the river system or water needs of the local people, have over the years systematically killed the river and are to blame for the river drying up last month.
“If not for the sand miners’ devastating effect on the river system, the Umvoti would have lasted longer through the drought,” said Mdabe.
He said the river level used to reach the top of the concrete around the Umvoti extraction tower and flowed almost as wide as the Tugela River, before illegal sand miners invaded the river.
Mdabe said under normal circumstances the Umvoti water works produced 18 mega litres (Ml) of water per day but that was reduced to seven Ml, three Ml, and eventually zero Ml per day, leaving Stanger without water for three weeks in November.
This prompted IDM to take action against sand miners and they went on to bust eight sand mining dams over a 20 kilometre stretch of river between Glendale and the Umvoti water works in Melville.
“Those dams are huge; one of the dams was 800 metres deep!” said Mdabe.
After opening the dams, the Umvoti waterworks’ production increased to 14 Ml per day.
“Sand miners have further damaged the sheet piles that were originally made for diversion of water to the abstraction tower,” said Mdabe.
Sand miners typically widen the river by destroying the riparian zone (banks with trees and plants) which speeds up evaporation. They also divert the natural flow of water, remove piles of hand stones (replenish sand through the abrasion) and don’t bother with rehabilitation.
Apparently Umvoti River sand is highly sought after and trucks come from as far as Ladysmith and Harrysmith to take it to Johannesburg.
The Umvoti River has been killed by sand miners. On the right in the distance is a TLB belonging to a sand miner.