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15 Mar 2016

St Lucia Estuary gets much-needed fresh water

Chelsea Pieterse (The Witness)

The uMfolozi River has been linked to Lake St Lucia through a spillway, filling the drying estuary with fresh water for the first time in years. Photo Credit: Nicolette Forbes

Following years of devastating drought conditions the St Lucia Estuary at iSimangaliso Wetland Park has started to fill up with fresh water.

In 1952, the uMfolozi River, which provides up to 60% of Lake St Lucia’s water, was partially separated from the thriving estuary.

The effect on the estuary and its wildlife became a major concern and, between 2002 and 2012, sand banks had been built up at the mouth of the sea, closing it off to the ocean, and the water level dropped to 10%. In January this year only 30% of Lake St Lucia was covered in water, and plans to naturalise the area were underway.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park director Andrew Zaloumis said at the time the partial separation of the uMfolozi River from the lake had created vegetation that resulted in the destruction of a large part of the estuary.

Zaloumis signed a R10 million contract in­ ­January that would see the naturalisation of the estuary, and earlier this month the project had its first victory.

The plan to rejoin the separated section of the uMfolozi River to the estuary by removing the artificial barrier created during the dredging years saw fresh water gushing into the lake last week.

Zaloumis said yesterday that the link channel created between the river and the estuary saw fresh water flush into the lake within the last few days. “This is very positive and the link channel is certainly doing its job,” he said.

He said more work on the estuary should start in May.

 

Online Article