Weedbuster week 2009: “My River My Life”

“Invasive Alien Species (IAPs) consume vast amounts of water; more than 7% of all water run off is lost to alien plants. That’s some 3, 3 billion cubic meters of water in excess of that used by indigenous vegetation every year. Aquatic weeds pose significant environmental, economic and social problems,” said Debbie Sharp, Deputy  Director of the Working for Water Programme Northern Cape.
Sharp was speaking ahead of Working for Water’s Weedbuster Week Campaign which this year spouts the Theme of “My River My life”. The theme highlights the issues around water bodies and the impacts that IAPs have on catchments areas as well as how it affects the communities around theses water bodies.
Working for Water is Government’s flagship Expanded Public Works Programme. The clearing of invasive alien plants during the 2006/7 financial year has yielded an estimated release of 48-56 million cubic meters of additional water for alternative uses annually. Over 30 000 previously unemployed beneficiaries receive employment and training through the programme annually.
According to Sharp, “The Working for Water programme has also spearheaded a massive catchment rehabilitation programme of more than 300 clearing sites, in addition to work on aquatic weeds and the use of biological control agents and has established programmes in eight fire-prone regions of South Africa”.
WeedBuster Week represents the annual culmination and highlight of the ongoing campaign aimed at the management and containment of invasive alien plants and invasive aquatic weeds. The campaign is a multi-departmental initiative led by the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs through the Working for Water (WfW) programme, and supported by various partners and stakeholders. The South African campaign has previously been linked bi-laterally to invasive plant control initiatives by countries such as Australia and New Zealand, and multi-laterally to the broader Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) and other structures and frameworks.
Sharp said, “Floating aquatic weeds form dense mats which keep sunlight out, thus destroying the aquatic biodiversity; deoxygenates the water at night and when decaying blocks canals, pumps and turbines and increases siltation, thus aggravating floods. It restricts access for fishing, river transport and recreation, increases water loss by evapo-transpiration, causes cattle to drown and provides breeding sites for disease vectors such as mosquitoes and bilharzia-carrying snails.
Two of the worst Aquatic weeds to be found in our water resources are Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata). We want to encourage communities to adopt a local river or water body. We need to all adopt the theme of “My River My Life”.

Tips on How to combat Invasive aquatic weeds
This WeedBuster you can contribute to the sustainability of your local river by:
*  Talking to your neighbours, so that your land is not invaded as a result of “seed pollution” from invasive alien plants on your neighbours’ land.
*  Not buying invasive alien plants from nurseries and other outlets.
*  Not bringing foreign plants or animals into our country (or take our plants and animals to other countries).
*  Joining a volunteer clearing (“hacking”) group, and adopting a piece of land to keep it clear.
*  Encouraging your local authority, agricultural union, school, church, community bodies and others to work with the WfW programme.
*  Remembering that a “stitch in time saves nine” – the sooner the work is done, the less it will cost, and the lower the damage.
*  Contacting the WfW programme on 0800 005 376, for advice on invasive alien plants and how best to remove these species.