Businesses spend millions to fight water lettuce in Vaal River

Business owners say sewerage contamination in the river is the root cause of the invasive plants threatening their livelihood.

An intensive effort led by businesses along the banks of the Vaal River has seen millions of rands poured into fighting the invasive water lettuce that has plagued the river since December 2023.

The rapid proliferation of water lettuce encouraged an urgent response from residents and entrepreneurs alike, who recognize the severe threat it poses to both the local economy and the environment.

Earlier in February, AfriForum an around 50 community members scooped 1 623 tonnes of water lettuce from the river.

Leading the charge in the battle are figures such as Rosemary Cloete-Anderson of Stonehaven and Mark Owen, who have been at the forefront of efforts to mitigate the impact of the invasive species.

Dr Leslie Hoy, the environmental management services manager for Rand Water, underscored the detrimental effects of the lettuce mat on livelihoods, tourism, and fishing activities along the Vaal Barrage.

Speaking to Sedibeng Ster, Owen emphasized the substantial financial commitment required to address this issue.

He says businesses at the banks of the river are most severely affected.

“They have already paid out of their pocket, not hundreds of thousands, but millions to remove a problem originating from affluents going into the river,” he said.

Despite the ongoing efforts to remove water lettuce, Owen stressed the importance of addressing the root cause of the problem, pointing to sewage contamination as a primary driver of the invasive plant’s proliferation.

He called upon local authorities, particularly Emfuleni Local Municipality, to urgently tackle the sewage issue to prevent further growth of alien plants in the river.

Cloete-Anderson highlighted the proactive measures taken by the business community to contain the spread of water lettuce.

“We have ensured that no more water lettuce flows down from the Taaibos, which is the source. We have been physically removing water lettuce ourselves,” she said.


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