IN PICS – The killing of the once-scenic Hennops River

It would most likely take decades of hard work and community intervention for life to return to its ever-flowing stream.

What was once a scenic and beautiful river flowing from Johannesburg through Centurion and ending up in Hartbeespoort Dam has now become so severely polluted that life in these waters no longer exist.

Several factors over the years have contributed to making the Hennops River’s water a dark, blackish colour that smells like putrid sewerage, making its way past homes and through nature parks before contributing to the already destroyed water quality of the Hartbeespoort Dam.

It would most likely take decades of hard work and community intervention for this river to be restored to its former glory and for life to return to its ever-flowing stream.

1. A 3-metre high gathering of foam can be seen near a once pristine waterfall along the river on the grounds of the Royal Elephant conference centre. The foam has in some areas reached massive amounts and is created by some of the many pollutants present in the river water. Picture: Jacques Nelles

2. Willem Snyman, the director of the non-profit organisation FRESH (Fountain River Environmental Sanctuary Hennops) can be seen standing near the confluence where the Hennops River and the Crocodile River meet. There is a clearly visible divide here in the water quality – the water from the Hennops is blackish in colour and from here on down river fish may still be found. Picture: Jacques Nelles

3. The polluted water under a bridge in Kaalfontein. Plastic and styrofoam pollution mainly comes from here and Tembisa. In Kaalfontein, homes are being built directly on the wetland area, preventing nature from cleaning the waters naturally and will most likely be destroyed during floods. Picture: Jacques Nelles

4. A team of kayakers from FRESH and ARMOUR (Action for Responsible Management of Our Rivers) are seen among trash and debris that gathered in an eddy downriver, during an expedition to explore the extent of pollution on the way to Hartbeespoort Dam. Picture: Jacques Nelles

5. Willem Snyman is seen in a raft passing plastic debris in a tree down the Hennops River. The plastic pollution gets caught up in tree branches when the river flows at its highest and will remain there for years unless removed by hand, and eventually it dissolves into micro plastics that poison the water, killing life in and along the river. Picture: Jacques Nelles

6. Bags of trash dumped into the wetland at Kaalfontein. Volunteers from nearby communities and members of FRESH clean up the trash on a weekly basis but unfortunately to no avail, as they return to even larger amounts of trash that is increasing at an alarming rate each time they go out for clean-up operations. Picture: Jacques Nelles

7. Mark Mcclue, founding member of the ARMOUR NGO and passionate white water Kayaker. ‘The Hennops River and subsequently the main Crocodile River to Harties is taking a beating from numerous sources of pollution stemming from illegal dumping, sewerage discharge, failed construction of private dam walls, and the ongoing pressure from people’s litter habits.’ Picture: Jacques Nelles

8. A volunteer with FRESH can be seen planting a tree in Kaalfontein after collecting bags of trash around the wetland area. The trees are being planted in the hopes of restoring some nature to the worst-affected areas, and giving people the sense of it being a park and not a space to drop trash. Picture: Jacques Nelles

9. An outlet pipe gushing a foam-like substance along with raw untreated sewerage into the river from the Olifantsfontein waste water treatment plant. Only two of the three sewerage tanks are operating while the third pumps sewerage directly into the river, poisoning the water along with the immense amounts of pollution it already suffers from. Picture: Jacques Nelles

10. A dead bird can be seen in the Kaalfontein wetland. Birds and ducks are often still seen along the river, but there no longer seems to be any fish or life in the water anymore. If nothing is done to prevent the ongoing pollution, this river and all the ecosystems relying on it will soon no longer exist. Picture: Jacques Nelles

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