Lourens River needs protecting

This pathway along the river behind Bridgewater is well-maintained.

Paul Fletcher, Lourens River Conservation Society, Somerset West

The protected Lourens River remains in the spotlight. This wonderful natural asset has been allowed to decay due to neglect by the authorities, who are legislated to have a Duty of Care to this important river system.

The Lourens River is almost the only protected area not to have a management plan or an area manager.

As a result, there is no dedicated caretaker for the river, so a small group of volunteers try to protect it on behalf of the community.

Explore the river yourself, by walking the trail alongside much of the river banks, on Saturday March 4.

W are meeting at the parking lot near the old river bridge in Strand, at 9am for 9.30am.

The trail, established by the Lourens River Conservation Society (LRCS), takes about an hour to one and a half hours to complete, and the society is offering refreshments at the end of the walk in Stormhaven Park, next to the historical bridge in Somerset West, the oldest bridge in the country.

Wear sensible clothing, strong shoes and sun block. Take a hat, plenty of water and a walking stick.

Be prepared to be uplifted by the potential beauty of the river with the sea as a backdrop on one end, and the mountains on the other.

But also be prepared to have to pass illegal dumping by businesses and individuals, unacceptable amounts of litter, people living alongside and in the river, and endure seemingly endless outdoor toilets, both animal and human.

Although the Ecoli levels in the Lourens River are lower than many other rivers in Cape Town, they are still dangerously high.

The acceptable standard is 2 000 units per part: in Somerset West this sometimes reaches over 5 000 and at the mouth in the Strand readings of over 30 000 have been recorded.

The LRCS has nurtured the river for 40 years, and was instrumental in it being proclaimed a Protected Natural Environment (PNE) 30 years ago.

The committee now sits on the Lourens River Protected Area Advisory Committee and advises on the flood alleviation project.

Members clear the river of alien vegetation, erect information signs, advocate to keep the river in as natural a state as is possible, and have to date cleaned 100 000 bags of litter out of the river.

While the flood alleviation project seems to be well managed, lack of maintenance of riverside planting has caused thousands of rand to be wasted.

At least the flood alleviation team seems to be acknowledging and taking advantage of the society’s hands-on experience, knowledge and expertise.

It seems a shame that other City officials do not seem to be doing the same.

The LRCS hopes to change this by engaging and partnering with other NGOs, City officials and politicians, and hereby extends personal invitations to the two councillors for the wards through which the Lourens River runs (Carl Punt and Stuart Pringle), as well as to the newly-appointed Mayco member for the Eastern Region of Cape Town, Anda Ntsodo.

The society also invites City officials, other organisations and members of the public to join the walk on Saturday March 4.

Call 072 136 9534 for details on LRCS and the walk.