W. Cape river restoration projects celebrated

Revegetation with indigenous wetlands plants created job opportunities for the local community since 2018 and brought back animal life to the riverbanks. Farmers welcomed the securing of the riverbanks and subsequent reduced risk to their farming operations

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Two Western Cape river restoration projects that spanned several years and cost multiple millions of rand, were officially handed over by the Western Cape MEC for agriculture this week.

Dr Ivan Meyer visited Genadendal on Tuesday, 22 September to hand over the Meerlustkloof and Meul projects to the Zonderend Water Users’ Association.

Hans King, designing engineer on the projects and now-retired soil conservation engineer with the department, tells Food For Mzansi that the project was necessitated after floods had caused major damage to the rivers in 2008 and 2013.

The project entailed clearing alien vegetation, reconstructing the river banks to widen the waterway and to ensure a slower flow velocity, constructing groynes (low, sturdy barrier walls) and weirs to stop erosion, and replanting indigenous wetlands vegetation along the rock-filled gabion baskets.

Civil construction was completed in 2018 and the revegetation project – which also created job opportunities for the local community and improved biodiversity in especially animal life – has been ongoing and is now in the throes of being completed.

Protecting surrounding farms

Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape minister of agriculture. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Western Cape minister of agriculture Dr Ivan Meyer. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Local farmer Carl van Lingen applauded the collaborative approach adopted by the department, which worked with Ruwacon Engineering and Martin & East for the construction and Casidra as project management company. “We now have a secured river. The risk of hectares being washed away and sludge in the river is now greatly reduced,” said Van Lingen.

Speaking at the handover of the R50 million projects, Meyer said that both the Elandskloof and Meul rivers are important tributaries for the Riviersonderend river. The Riviersonderend, 140km in length, is in turn an important water source for the agriculture sector in the Overberg district.

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It provides water to about 107 irrigation farmers with approximately 6017ha during summer and 1389 ha during winter. “In addition, the river is critical to support ecological functioning and services in the region,” the MEC said.

Meyer further congratulated the project team. “Completing the project was possible because competent and committed officials and partners affected the design and scope of the project.”

ALSO READ: 150 households to benefit from R78m river weir

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