The Cape Navigator

Seaside Community Newspaper

Gauteng, Opinion

Vaal River Under Siege: Rand Water Deploys “Chemical Weapons” Against Water Lettuce

Michael Hawthorne

The battle against the invasive water lettuce choking South Africa’s Vaal River has taken a disturbing turn. In a desperate bid to regain control, Rand Water has controversially begun spraying the plant infestation with glyphosate, a potent herbicide notorious for its potential health and environmental risks.

This dramatic escalation from Rand Water’s initial “integrated approach” involving biocontrol weevils and physical removal marks a worrying departure from promises of environmental responsibility. Questions abound regarding the long-term consequences of essentially ‘nuking’ a significant portion of the vital Vaal River ecosystem.

Glyphosate is no stranger to controversy. The World Health Organization’s IARC classifies it as a “probable human carcinogen.” Studies link it to disruptions of aquatic ecosystems, decimating the very biodiversity that could naturally counteract invasive species. The decision to unleash this chemical on the already beleaguered Vaal River raises valid concerns about lasting damage and its implications for human health.

Environmental experts and a recent in-depth investigation by the Daily Maverick echo the worries of communities along the Vaal River. Fears revolve around glyphosate’s disruption of the ecosystem, hindering natural controls and creating new risks linked to chemical contamination in the waterway. Concerns that glyphosate may harm the biocontrol weevils meant as a long-term solution further complicate the situation.

But beyond the immediate glyphosate impact lies a greater danger: rampant sewage pollution. This crisis fuels the very conditions that enable invasive species to thrive. Spraying herbicides treats the symptom while ignoring the core issue— allowing the sewage problem to worsen, further poisoning the waters and driving invasive growth cycles.

Citizens have a right to demand better from Rand Water and the governing bodies responsible for the Vaal River’s health. This short-sighted, chemical-fueled assault undermines a sustainable future for the river. Until decisive action is taken to halt ongoing sewage pollution, we are doomed to a worsening aquatic disaster. We cannot solve an environmental crisis by creating a new one with known human and ecological dangers.


Spraying of controversial herbicide on Vaal River water lettuce begins – critics urge caution



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top