Rivers are the lifeblood of a nation


The healthy flow of rivers is a sign of life in a community, especially in a water scarce country like South Africa. Water is life and rivers are the mode of transport ensuring that everyone has access to the source of life. Rivers, therefore play a major and crucial role in ensuring water access to all living beings and as recreational places. Dam that store and provide water for different activities also rely on rivers to have the water ensuring water supply security during dry seasons.

It is therefore important that we protect and keep our rivers clean for water security. The major threat to our rivers is pollution which negatively affects the quality of water. Water quality is critical for the river health and the health of aquatic life and the end users of the water. Pollution compromises the quality of water thereby affecting the quantity of water for use.

The pollution of our rivers is basically the result of our own behaviours and actions. The irresponsible human actions and behaviours destroys our rivers. People through their irresponsible behavior have turned our rivers and streams into rubbish dumps where all sorts of waste is thrown. This is having a negative impact as it negatively affects water quality and poses health risks and can be a recipe for flooding during heavy rains.

The pollution of our rivers is a result of the actions of individuals, agriculture, industries, mining and municipalities. Individuals use rivers as dumping sites and dump items as severe as disposable nappies which negatively affect the water quality and can spread water borne diseases. Agriculture, mining and industries affect the health of our rivers through contamination by dangerous chemicals.  Municipalities affect the quality of our rivers through sewage contamination leading to high e-coli levels which negatively affect the health of people and animals and aquatic life.

The pollution of our rivers also negatively affects the socio-economic development of communities as we once saw the postponement of the dusi marathon. Sights and reports of dead fish are other examples of the serious negative impact of pollution on our rivers.

In as much as we see the problem, the challenge to every South African is what are we doing to solve the problem as it is man-made. The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) came up with the Clear Rivers campaign during the Nelson Mandela Month to engage and encourage South Africans to adopt a rivers clean it and strive to keep it healthy and free-flowing at all times. The annual campaign basically is a way of connecting people to their sources of water and calls on citizens to dedicate 67 minutes of goodwill to clean up rivers and water ecosystems.

If you look around, it is easy to see that there are some rivers which are dry as they did not recover from the drought and the effects of climate change which has led to the country receiving less and less rain every year. The fact that there are dry rivers is a wake-up call to all of us to protect and keep all the rivers that still have water healthy as water has no substitute and without water there is no life.

Let us join the DWS Clear Rivers Campaign and protect our rivers as water security is in our hands and it just needs us to change our attitude, behavior and actions and treat our rivers as our most precious and treasured resource and the lifeblood of our nation. Our rivers give us water and basically life, so it is a good thing that we also return the favour and keep our rivers clean and healthy. This is a win-win situation which will benefit all of us in terms of quality water and water security for the current and future generations.


Themba Khoza is the Department of Water and Sanitation, Mpumalanga Provincial Office Communications Manager. He is responsible for all communications activities in the Mpumalanga Province.