Some days farmers living close to the irrigation canal from the Lindleyspoort Dam in the Swartruggens district have to keep the doors and windows of their farmhouses shut in an effort to keep out the stench emanating from the canal. One of these farmers, Hannes Esterhuizen, said this is because of sewage from a works right next to the dam wall �spilling into the canal.
Independent tests have shown the quality of the water is terrible. Esterhuizen said farmers could no longer use this water for irrigating crops and now relied solely on borehole water to ensure they produced crops safe for human consumption. “This in an area where only a few years ago we boasted about having the cleanest water in the country,” he lamented.
Even livestock farmers no longer use water from the canal to irrigate their pastures, as livestock feeding on these pastures have shown higher percentages of measles. F or Esterhuizen and the district agricultural union the problems started in 1998, when local government built the sewage plant near the dam wall. “No impact study was done and the plant was built to cater for only about 300 houses,” he explained. Shortly after the sewage works was completed 600 households were established in an informal settlement that just keeps growing.
For nine years farmers in the district have been writing letters and trying to have constructive discussions with local authorities to resolve the issue of polluted irrigation water, to no avail. hey have now approached the Development Bank of Southern Africa which, according to has indicated it would provide a loan to finance a project to clean up the mess, but the Swartruggens municipality would have to repay this loan. armers have scheduled a meeting with municipal leaders, hoping they will buy into the solution. “If they don’t, we will sue them,” Esterhuizen stated. – Jasper Raats