The aim was to do an aerial survey to establish the status of the aquatic weed growth (water hyacinth and water lettuce) along the Duzi and uMngenie Rivers from Pietermaritzburg down to Durban.Report from the beneficiary:

“A mid-morning start with Champion Pilot Barry De Groot in his Cessna 172 was something to look forward to on a really hot day in Pietermaritzburg. The door was removed for photography and after clearance was granted we were on our way. Over Camps Drift, Alex Park, Meadow Feeds, Sewage works, and then across the sugar cane farmlands and down into the Duzi Valley.

Hyacinth and Lettuce already showing their new season leaves off, even above Campbells Portage put-in near Bishopstowe. Small patches of hyacinth along the river with denser and larger patches just below the uMngeni Duzi Confluence will be a problem if not sorted out soon. Not much at the usual problem area at the headwaters of Inanda dam.

Below Inanda at Kwadabeka where the impressive new Bridge stands tall, water lettuce is in abundance but there are hints of yellowing which is an indication that the bio-control agents released earlier in the year are eventually starting to do their work. A small section of the river is however completely blocked just below the New Bridge.

Sand mining was evident all along the river. Mfula store had current mining and also abandoned sites requiring rehabilitation. Ebuhleni Village on the top of the mountain is scarred by illegal mining. The greedy sand miners even mine along the banks of the uMngeni destroying the Dusi2C trail at the N2.

It is so efficient to do an aerial inspection and to be able to take about 150 photographs in that short space of time. Our objective of an aquatic weed inspection was done as well as photographing nearly all the sand mining along the river which mostly has a negative effect on the health of the river. We were able to determine from this flight which areas are soon to be problem areas if left unattended. Trying to do this work from the ground is not possible as access to a lot of the areas is impossible. To cover the accessible areas on the ground would take a number of days whilst a flight like this gives us comprehensive coverage, with usable photographs in just over an hour flight.”

Report from the pilot:

“Nothing puts a bigger smile on a Bateleur pilot’s face  than being greeted by clear blue skies on the morning that the mission is to be flown. And so it was on Friday, the 11th October 2013, with temperatures in Durban forecast at 30 degrees C and Pietermaritzburg soaring to 38 degrees C, with light variable winds.

After meeting with Bart Fokkens and Doug Burden of DUCT and obtaining the required Air Traffic Control clearance and Squawk number, we were soon airborne and heading for the Duzi river just south of the Pietermaritzburg CBD. Flying conditions were perfect if not a little warm, and this was one time I was pleased that we had removed the door to allow better visibility and access for photography.

From the excited exchanges between my two companions I gathered that they were very impressed with the condition of both rivers, and reported very minimal weed infestation. It seems that the bugs that had been introduced to keep the Hyacinth under control were doing their bit in destroying the plant, evidenced by large patches of yellow coloured leaves.

Once we reached the point where the N2 freeway crosses the Umgeni river, we turned around and used the return trip up the river to pin point and photograph the sites where illegal river sand mining was taking place, I gather to use as evidence in a follow up later.

Both Bart and Doug were delighted with the speed and efficiency of the survey that only an aerial inspection can give, and are hoping to do it on a regular basis in the future.”