By Kim Ludbrook
Pretoria, South Africa, Aug 14 (efe-epa).- A community has come together to help clean a heavily polluted river in South Africa, removing more than 300 tons of rubbish in nine months.
The Hennops River in Gauteng is one of the worst polluted rivers in the region, choked with pollutants and plastic waste.
Hennops Revival, a nonprofit organization that aims to revive and restore the waterway, has collected more than 300 tons of rubbish from the river since November.
This week a team of 70 volunteers collected more than 700 bags of rubbish weighing 16,200kg over two days using rakes, spades and other hand tools.
Tarryn Johnston, founder and director of the group, said: “We are a community of people who get together to remove as much waste as we can from the river.
“We’ve organized many, many cleanups where we get the community involved in our water sources.”
She added: “This particular cleanup was to remove debris from an area which was caused by previous flooding.
“The Hennops River is so toxic that unfortunately, all that is collected from the river goes to landfill, it is not recyclable.”
Lack of sanitation facilities have turned the waterway into an open sewer and many locals also use it to dispose of their rubbish as there are no municipal services.
Hennops Revival also carries out environmental education upstream and has plans to work on community improvement projects such as urban farming with residents.
Johnston said: “We were cleaning up the leftover remaining debris from the floods that we had at the end of last year.“But upstream from where we are there’s a lot of poverty and it’s coming from rural areas, it’s coming from people who are living on the river banks.
“When the floods hit them, unfortunately, their whole community is washed down the river because the water comes with such great force.
“We’re basically picking up the pieces of poverty in a roundabout way.”
She added: “A lot of the areas don’t have municipal services so they use the river as a way to get their rubbish away from them because the river takes the rubbish away.
“It’s a massive and almost never-ending task – this is the result of a lot of inequality.
“There’s lots of healing that needs to take place on many, many levels before the river will actually come right.”
A quarter of South Africa’s major rivers are considered critically endangered, according to a World Wide Fund for Nature report in 2016.
South African minister Gugile Nkwitni warned in March last year that water pollution is the biggest problem in the country.
Speaking at the launch of a government program to tackle “rampant water pollution in the country” he added that informal settlements along the country’s rivers are one of the main issues.