Cape Town - Members of the surrounding iSimangaliso Wetland Park communities, tour operators, business owners and staff alike staged a protest on Wednesday 16 March, following a court interdict compelling iSimangaliso to create a breach out to sea.
A court settlement agreement, reached with Umfolozi Sugar Planters UCOSP in relation to flood protection for its farmers is forcing iSimangaliso to create the breach of the uMfolozi River, forcing thousands of litres of much-needed fresh water out to sea.
The startling reality is that more than 90% off St Lucia's surface water has dried up, with 315km2 of the 350km2 lake bed lies exposed and barren, ravaged by the drought.
READ: PICS - Lake St Lucia forcibly choked as drought grips iSimangaliso
Respite came between 12 and 14 March 2016 when some 6.2 billion litres of fresh water entered the Lake St Lucia system, following rains both in the catchment and locally, providing a crucial buffer against the possibility of continued low rainfall over the next six months.
And while the recent rains pose a risk of flood to 94ha or 1% of the 9 427ha of land under sugarcane on the uMfolozi floodplain, according to iSimangaliso Wetland Park, still the breach will be legally in place until the matter heads to court in May 2016
However on Wednesday, the protest group made their way to the breaching site to take it down.
"Coupled with buckets and spades they successfully stopped the flow of valued and cherished fresh water into the sea," says Victoria Doyle of St Lucia Self Catering.
Doyle confirmed there was no police presence and group's aim was for a peaceful protest to "quietly close" the breach.
"Recently we have been witness to the most tragic events in Lake St Lucia. Animals stuck in the mud attempting to access fresh water, species of fish dying and organisms becoming obsolete. Whilst the iSimangaliso Wetland Park has put in place solutions endeavouring to combat these travesties, the fact remains that fresh flowing water is vital to restoration of the natural process of Lake St Lucia,"says Doyle.
"On 2 November, 2015 we witnessed the dry estuary bank for the first time in more the 60 years. With the up and coming dry months ahead, the St Lucia, Khula and Dukuduku Communities have been closely observing the devastating affects caused by one of the worst droughts to affect the area and lowest rainfall recorded in over 65 years," Doyle said.
"Given that 60% of Lake St Lucia’s fresh water comes from the uMfolozi, these are the first significant flows of water into the system since December 2015 and it is hoped that some of the negative impacts of the drought will be reduced,” says iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis said after the rainfall last week.
Satellite photos supplied by iSimangaliso show exactly how dire the situation is and demonstrates why the water flowing into the Estuary (especially when we are heading onto a winter no rainfall season) is so critical, says the park.
"Whilst devastatingly the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority is legally forced to uphold the interdict, the surrounding communities are proud to have made this statement and endeavor to continue to fight the breach of the uMfolozi River which will cost the iconic Lake St Lucia and the surrounding communities dearly, " Doyle says.
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