Witte controversy – a response

Ed Herbst and trout
Ed Herbst and trout

Ed Herbst

‘The country will surely die a slow and painful death if this is allowed to continue.’ Richard Butt in a letter to the Sunday Times

Water extraction from the once-pristine spawning grounds of Clanwilliam sawfin and yellowfish in the upper reaches of the Driehoeks stream.
Water extraction from the once-pristine spawning grounds of Clanwilliam sawfin and yellowfish in the upper reaches of the Driehoeks stream.

On 31 January a letter was published in the Sunday Times in response to two recent articles by the newspaper’s Cape Town-based reporter, Bobby Jordan

The first, Cape Village left high and dry by war over water’ was published on 6 December and referred to the extraction of virtually the entire summer flow  of the Witte River by farmers.

The article has been reproduced on this website and I sketched the background to this debate in my article, Trout and the farmer’.

http://www.piscator.co.za/CPS2/index.php/trout-and-the-farmer

The second article, Hey neighbour, I need some of that dam water was published on 24 January and referred to what was claimed to be the excessive extraction of water by a farmer from the Lemoenhoek stream outside Barrydale.

The following email letter from Richard Butt reflects his view that South Africa has some of the most advanced and equitable legislation extant relating to water usage, but that these laws are not being applied.

This is the crux of the argument about the Witte and why, from an environmental point of view, the decades-old campaign by the Cape Piscatorial Society to ensure an equitable flow on the Witte is so important.

It is therefore disturbing that a Society member, who has never publicly expressed concern about the Witte

situation, has attempted to devalue our efforts in a post on our Facebook page.

A camp site has been built and swimming facilities created in areas of the upper Driehoeks stream where threatned indigenous fish spawn
A camp site has been built and swimming facilities created in areas of the upper Driehoeks stream where threatned indigenous fish spawn

What should be noted is that this campaign by our chairman, Dr Leonard Flemming, is not confined to the Witte. In an article in the 2007 issue of Piscator, he brought to the attention of Cape Nature how bad farming practices and water extraction from the Driehoeks stream in the Cederberg was placing in jeopardy the spawning areas of some of our most threatened indigenous fish species.

SA withers as water laws are ignored

In response to “Hey neighbour, I need some of that dam water” (January 24), the cries of some commercial farmers about how many people they need to employ and how much they produce need to be read in the context of how much of our land they have rendered barren and how rich they have become at the expense of others – how many they have put out of jobs and a livelihood.

Farmers sell their farms as they dry them up, and buy where there is water and so on…the country will surely die a slow and painful death if this is allowed to continue.

Excavating in river beds, the clearing of riverine bush, the diversion of streams and building of dams, the overplanting of areas relative to approved rights, the planting of water-thirsty crops in dry areas, all without authorisation, and the poisoning of our streams and rivers, cannot represent responsible behaviour.

All landowners need to take responsibility for the removal of encroaching water-thirsty aliens.

Habitat degradation on the Driehoeks stream where siltation has resulted in a marked decline of indigenous fish populations.
Habitat degradation on the Driehoeks stream where siltation has resulted in a marked decline of indigenous fish populations.

Every South African who has had the privilege of an education needs to take responsibility for driving the future sustainability of our country – short-term pain for long-term gain.

In 1998 the National Water Act and the National Environmental Management Act were promulgated to remedy the equitable sharing of water and the sustainability of our environment and our water resources.

Both are world-acclaimed acts which have been adopted and successfully applied by other African countries. These two acts are now more than 17 years old and, despite the water crisis, there is a failure to apply them here.

Millions are being wasted on public and private sector battles due to the ineffectual application of our laws and regulations.

Millions are unemployed and our country is drying up.

Let’s unite as a nation and build a prosperous country for the benefit 0f all – not just the privileged few.

Richard Butt, by email