A central venue, early notification, easily 500 seats, stacks of information DVDs and pamphlets, and an extensive presentation projected on two large screens - that was the setting for a public meeting on 20 August to give feedback on the Metsi a me programme.

Sadly, only about 30 people attended.

Deputy Director Petrus Venter presented details on the programme, including the Business plan. The plan includes elements of Co-ordination; Information, Communication and Knowledge Centres; Compliance and Enforcement; and Catchment Strategies.

Operations and Maintenance include recreational access to the Dam, restructuring of the food web, harvesting biomass (mainly hyacinth, algae and alien species), removing debris and sediment management.

The strategies for the catchments include downstream eutrophication control, in-stream litter traps, nutrient management and the establishment of an aquaculture hub.

The Dam's state is hypertrophic (excessive nutrients) and of the 54km of shoreline, only about 3km are life-supporting. Floating islands of vegetation have been introduced as the shoreline is largely unable to support the re-establishment of vegetation.

Floating island in Hartebeespoort dam

The Dam has a massive sediment load, as thick as 14 meters (roughly one-third of the depth of the dam).

The Programme, as envisaged in the plan, will cost more than R100 million a year.
Past expenditure is indicative of the commitment to the programme - R1.4 million in 2006/7, R14.8 million in 2007/8, R22.9 million in 2008/9, R20.6 million in 2009/10 and R20.5 million in 2010/11.

Did you know?

Eutrophication can be induced by man, or take place naturally. It describes the entry of nutrients - nitrogen and phosphates - into an ecosystem which then encourages the growth aquatic vegetation and algae. The vegetation can grow so profusely that there is insufficient oxygen in the water, and light no longer penetrates. This disturbs the natural balance in the ecosystem and affects the quality of the water.

Phosphates enter the water system from animal and human waste, detergents, effluent, and fertilizer runoff. With 0.025 - 0.1 mg/L of phosphate in the water, plant growth is stimulated.

The process can occur in coastal water too, though generally it is the nitrogen content that becomes elevated.

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