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Artificial wetland for Berg River

A R2,5 million artificial wetland will be built next to Mbekweni to prevent the Berg River from being contaminated by wastewater and refuse off-flow from the settlement.

The contaminated water is threatening the future of farms in the area, which use water from the Berg River for irrigation.

A spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Water Affairs, Rudolf van Jaarsveldt, said pollution in the Berg River catchment is a cause of great concern, especially to communities, farmers and industry in the various municipalities of the West Coast and Cape Winelands regions.

“Stormwater from urban areas has a negative impact on the water quality of freshwater environments worldwide,” he said. “In some cases, we see that reduced flow in the river contributes to the increase in nutrient concentration, which results in an increase in algae in the rivers. This, in turn, has an influence on the filtration systems of the pumps that draw water from the river.”

Wetlands act as a natural water purifier. Thus the wetland will also reduce the prevalence of E.coli bacteria and harmful nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

“Various stakeholders have implemented initiatives to address the pollution concerns raised.”

The 1,4 ha wetland will support a region where 75% of its fruit production is exported to overseas markets.

This project forms part of the bigger Berg River Improvement Plan, which is to be completed by 2020 and will see community members become directly involved in the project.

Only indigenous plants will be used to filter the incoming water from the settlement.

“The outcome,” says Van Jaarsveldt, “will be a Berg River where its value for ecosystem services is recognised and its natural resource state as it relates to water quality and quantity returns while promoting sustainable growth and development towards a green economy in the Western Cape.”

The pollution of the Berg River system was recognised as far back as 2009, when the Berg River Water Quality Task Team was established to investigate and propose an intervention to improve the quality of water in the Berg River system.

Thereafter, the Berg River Improvement Plan was set up.

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