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IWC Africa students participate in World Water Day activities

Four IWC Africa students participated in river health surveys and vegetation clearing activities at Modderfontein Reserve, hosted by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, on World Water Day 2012.

The students were introduced to the South African Scoring System (SASS) for river health surveys by Ecotone, an organisation specialising in the surveys.

Indonesian student, Indrawan, said, "I am fascinated that South Africa has its own distinct methodology for measuring river health. I not only learnt the practical steps of doing mini-SASS, but also the logic and principles behind it – measurement of water quality by observing the presence of sets of aquatic macrointevertebrates that have different sensitivities toward environmental disturbance."

The overall results of the SASS survey showed the Modderfontein Spruit to be in a significantly modified condition, despite the stream appearing clear, with rock pools and healthy riparian vegetation.

Quinex from Malawi said, “I was particularly overwhelmed to see how our river systems are deteriorating as days go by, posing a threat to a number of development initiatives like food production that depend on rivers for irrigation water. The involvement of different stakeholders, such as Plastics South Africa, also showed me how important it is to have collaborative efforts in water management.”

IWC Africa studentsAlthough SASS and mini-SASS cater specifically for South African environments, the principles are universal, and the students suggested that similar methods could be developed for rivers in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa. Most countries in the region experience rapid population growth and industrial development, accompanied by escalated socio-economic issues, which are fundamental causes of river pollution.

The second activity of the day involved clearing alien vegetation from a stand next to the river, using both mechanical and chemical removal methods. Acacia baileyana, an Australian wattle species, is a heavy invader of South African water courses, and requires follow up treatments every few months.

IWC Africa student Jackton“The invasive nature of Acacia baileyana at Modderfonteinspruit is worrying," said Jackton (pictured right), "because if the growth of the plant species is not controlled, all other important shrubs and vulnerable plant species will be replaced within approximately five years.”

Reflecting on the day's activities, the students concluded that managing conservation areas in urban settings is difficult because of the multiple socioeconomic activities that surround the areas.

"During our visit to the Modderfontein Reserve," a student said, "we heard explosion sounds coming from the explosive testing ground. In addition, the Gautrain railway established alongside the reserve gives evidence of a busy urban realm outside the reserve."

Machaya from Zambia concluded that, “overall the day highlighted the challenges and complexity of preserving ecosystems and process in urban areas.”



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