River Health Programme

As part of the River Health Programme, the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, in conjunction with Mafube Local Municipality and the Let the River Flow project (funded by the South African Breweries) embarked on the Wilge River Clean Up in Frankfort during 2011. The aim of the project is to clear the 315 kilometer long Wilge River of massive debris which has built up over a decade and is blocking the flow of its water while also preventing communities from accessing quality drinking water.

The Wilge River is the primary source of water for more than 57 000 people living in the immediate Mafube Municipal district. In addition to this, members of communities surrounding Mafube are also dependent on the river’s water.  The blockages in the Wilge River are caused by debris from vegetation growing on its banks. If this is not cleared, the water is unable to flow through the Mafube Municipality’s purification system and becomes stagnant, falling below acceptable health standards. This has a direct impact on surrounding communities reliant on the water for their daily use.

The problem is made worse by intermittent flooding in the area, which erodes the river’s banks causing more trees and other vegetation to fall into it.  Added to this, much of the existing vegetation consists of invasive species which deplete the river of millions of litres of water each day, placing the sustainability of the river at risk. The Wilge River has also been officially adopted by the River Trust as part of the Adopt-a-River campaign and they are partnering with the Mafube Local Municipality on this portion of the river. The River Trust will strive to partner with other municipalities on other portions of the river with a view of expanding the project further. The added benefit of this is that wood collected from the river is cut and delivered to nearby communities for their day-to-day use. Many are reliant on this wood for purposes such as cooking and heating.  A total of 22 jobs were created through this Public Private Partnership.