Rivers of the Kogelberg: How you can help protect them
You’ll find rivers and wetlands criss-crossing the entire Kogelberg Biosphere.
From the larger rivers, to the tiny streams that dry up during the summer months, these waterways play a crucial role in providing life not only to our residents, but also to our wildlife.
But did you know that many of these rivers face severe threats? In our biosphere, we have four rivers that include critically endangered stretches, and seven that are endangered.
That means these rivers have lost much of their original natural habitat and species, and that they’re not functioning as they should. Their intact length is also below the conservation target.
In the Kogelberg Biosphere, we’re particularly worried about the Bot River and the Afdaks River. Both have areas that are critically endangered. And both feed the Bot estuarine lake, a Ramsar site because it’s a vital water bird habitat and one of the country’s most important nurseries for marine fish. The river is identified as a coast-to-mountain ecological corridor for the Overstrand Municipality.
The Houwhoek River, Palmiet River and Steenbras River are also concerns – with sweeps of the latter two rivers also severely threatened.
Why are we worried?
Threats to our river systems include increased nutrient load from developments, which leads to poor water quality and loss of water to invasive alien species along the banks of the river. Unsustainable agricultural use is also a threat, with 40% of the Bot River’s catchment used for cultivation.
Despite the threats, there are many solutions.
From the perspective of the biosphere, it’s vital to find ways to manage these river systems beyond the farm, and rather at landscape level. Already the Western Cape Government has highlighted the importance of many of our river systems, including the Bot River, and has put in place plans to protect them. They’ve allocated responsible management authorities to oversee the conservation activities, including the Kogelberg Biosphere, CapeNature and other partners.
What can you do?
But there are also things you can do in your home to help protect our rivers. This World Rivers Day (25 September), here are some tips to try at home:
- Use biodegradable cleaning products – the cleaning products run through your plumbing into a stream.
- Plant an indigenous tree – the root system of plants cling to the soil and create stability, reducing sand and silt that run into the river.
- Limit pesticide use – chemical sprays are water soluble, runoff can seep into the ground and nearby rivers.
- Fix leaky faucets – this can contribute to water wastage.
World Rivers Day is a celebration of the world’s waterways. It gives us reason to remember and value our rivers, and to encourage better stewardship of them.
It also serves as a reminder that without rivers, we would not be able to support agriculture and other industries, we would lose our drinking water and a food source, and we would lose the economic opportunities provided by rivers through recreation and tourism.
If you live close to a river, why not remove some invasive species along the banks of the river on World Rivers Day? Perhaps organise a river pollution clean-up. Or simply enjoy a stroll along the river, watching the birds and animals that rely on it.
Images: LoveGreen Communications
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