The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has urgently requested that boaters refrain from attempting to navigate through the water hyacinth at Hartbeespoort dam, which currently extend over roughly 30% of the dam.

On Saturday night, 16 December, volunteers from the NSRI’s Station 25 at Hartbeespoort dam took five hours to extricate 30 recreational boaters from the water hyacinth mats.

ALSO READ: Thousands of DEAD fish found at Hartbeespoort dam [PICS]

What is water hyacinth?

Common water hyacinth is an aquatic plant native to South America, that has naturalised throughout the world and is often invasive outside its native range.

The main reason for its rapid growth at Hartebeespoort has been an influx of nutrients into the dam. Sources include untreated sewage from surrounding settlements, agricultural runoff, and fertilizer from golf courses and gardens. These nutrients create ideal conditions for the hyacinth to flourish.

The water hyacinth causes substantial danger to small craft users at Hartbeespoort dam, and the NSRI have advised boat users against entering the mats.

ALSO READ: These popular Cape Town beaches have ‘chronic’ water quality problems

Boats trapped, propellers damaged

“The water hyacinth mats float on the dam surface and are wind-driven,” said NSRI Hartbeespoort Station Commander Arthur Crewe.

“We are finding that some recreational boaters are entering the water hyacinth mats when they are blown between them and their launching site. They try to return to the same launch site by navigating through the water hyacinth and become trapped.”

Photo: NSRI

“The boaters must not enter the water hyacinth mats while trying to get back to their launch site, but rather motor to a different launch site where the water hyacinth does not block their course.”

ALSO READ: 46% of South Africa’s water is undrinkable

“They should then call friends or family to fetch them by car rather than risk entering the water hyacinth to try and get back to their launch site. If boaters do try to navigate through the water hyacinth, our experience is that they become trapped as the hyacinth entangles their propeller.”

“We have also responded to several boaters who have damaged their propellers after hitting submerged objects that could not be seen under the water hyacinth mats,” Arthur added.

As summer progresses, the water hyacinth will grow, covering a larger area and making this problem more severe.

Photo: NSRI

ALSO READ: Up to 12.5 million litres of sewage discharged daily into this Cape Town bay

“Under no circumstances should boaters try to navigate through the water hyacinth. By doing this, they are putting their lives at risk. Rescuing people in boats entrapped by water hyacinth is a complex operation and will not be necessary if people do not enter the water hyacinth mats,” said Arthur.

Because of the danger of becoming trapped by the hyacinth, the NSRI is encouraging boaters to make sure that they are carrying the standard emergency equipment but also have drinking water, food, space blankets and warm clothing should they become trapped by the drifting mats.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *