Rivers for Life

Rivers for Life athletes to take on the Kromme

 

WESSA is proud to be associated once again with an open water event which aims to heighten awareness around the state of our country’s rivers and the urgent need to restore them.  The “Rivers for Life” swim, now known as “Swim for Rivers” also strives to creates awareness amongst youth, of their own power to restore river health and to be water wise.

The challenge involves a small group of athletes that is attempting to swim major rivers in each of South Africa’s nine provinces.  The 2017 swim – set to take place in the Eastern Cape from 14 – 21 October – will be the fourth event of the extreme swimming challenge that was launched by Cape Town-based swimmer Andrew Chin in 2015. During the Eastern Cape Swim, Chin will be joined by East London open-water swimmers Mandy Uys, Joy Roach and Sean Murray. Over a period of a week, these athletes will swim 10km a day, in seven of the estuaries in the Eastern Cape namely Kromme, Gamtoos, Sundays, Bushmans/Kowie, Keiskamma and Gonubie/Kei.

The swimmers will set off from the mouth of the Kromme Rivier in St Francis Bay on Saturday 14 October at 08h30, and will complete their final 2017 swim at the mouth of the Nahoon River in East London on Saturday 21 October.  The swimmers would like to encourage anyone who would like to show their support for this initiative to join them at the start or finish venue to wish them well.

Along the way, they will be meeting with communities and local schools – some of which are participating in the WESSA’s Eco-Schools programme – to engage with them about the importance of rivers, how they function, and the role that everyone needs to play in looking after these precious natural resources. They will demonstrate the use of miniSASS as a citizen science river health monitoring tool, and demonstrate the key elements of the NSRI’s Waterwise water safety programme. They will be presenting each school with WESSA’s river-themed educational resources and Aqua4Life water purification devices.  This year’s swim is also supported by Hippo Rollers whose rolling water barrel products will be demonstrated along the way.

The athletes expect to be faced by several challenges along the way, such as sewerage overflows and general pollution of river water by, among other, fertilizers and general run off which is also a big contributor to the deteriorating state of these rivers.

The first swim under the Rivers for Life/Swim for Rivers initiative took place in the Wilge River in the Free State in January 2015, during which Andrew Chin and Toks Viviers swam 200km over a period of 10 days. In October 2015, high water pollution levels and exceptionally low flows forced Chin and fellow swimmer Henko Roukema to abandon their quest to swim the length of the Berg River. Their goal had been to swim the Berg from source to sea, but the polluted water caused such illness in the team that they were forced to call off the swim after completing 135km of the river’s 294km length. In 2016 Chin, partnered by Mandy Uys, swam a 70km section of the Orange River in Northern Cape during which time the team interacted with over 1000 school pupils.

In addition to raising awareness and encouraging individual corrective action, the athletes participating in the 2017 Swim for Rivers hope to spark debate about what the authorities and public can and should be doing to save our rivers for life.

WESSA strongly supports this initiative, which is in line with the organisation’s aim to promote public awareness and participation in caring for the earth. One of WESSA’s key objectives is to promote the health of strategic water catchments and rivers through the monitoring and reporting of the state of our country’s water resources.

The 2017 swim is being supported by a number of sponsors including Speedo, Chatz Connect (cellular), Hippo Rollers, Aqua4Life water-purifying LifeStraws, and the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Follow the swimmers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/swimforrivers/

About WESSA:

WESSA implements effective environmental, ecotourism, education and youth development programmes throughout South Africa.  The organisation improves the school curriculum through education for sustainable development and provide critical work skills training, which creates job opportunities and sustainable livelihoods in local communities. WESSA’s environmental initiatives contribute towards the restoration of ecosystems, while their Blue Flag, Green Key and Green Coast ecolabels support tourism growth and development by encouraging responsible tourism practices and the improved management of our coastline.  For more information visit www.wessa.org.za