The Hennops River is the longest one in Gauteng (close to 100 km) but also the most poluted. The river starts in Kempton Park, flows north towards Tembisathen towards Olifantsfontein, through Rietvleidam and Centurion where it then flows into the Crocodile River at the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountain range and later forms part of the Limpopo River.
Illegal rubble is continually dumped on improperly managed massive land fills and extensive urbanisation has created a rapid increase in informal housing on this dangerously unstable soil. People live within the floodline while raw and partially treated rotten sewerage spills into the river and solid waste drifts on the water. Communities have had no waste removal for 15 years and uncountable numbers of non-degradable disposable nappies, huge volumes of plastics and household trashcompounded by aging infrastructure, have turned the Hennops River Wetland into a health hazzard especially for communities living on the river front.
One man, Willem Snyman, who used to swim in the Hennops as recently as 10 years ago, decided to bring back the glory of this river where otters also used to swim. He formed the non-profit organisation FRESH (www.fresh.ngo) which devoted themselves to the rehabilitation of the river and started mobilising the community to help with the clean-up. Other NGOs with similar focus, local businesses and local government were also motivated to step in and help.
Willem’s plans are to:
- have weekend clean-ups with the help of volunteers and the community
- roll-out programmes to introduce environmental education to schools, churches and other community based organisations
- get school groups to fill plastic bottles, collected from the banks and in the river, and create eco-bricks
- replace alien plants with indigenous plants
- to bring wildlife back to the area and ultimately to make it safe for everyone to swimin the Hennops River again.
The vision and dedication of one man makes me realise that there is hope for our beautiful country with all its wonderful people. Each one of us can make a difference!
By Elena Vasca