Baakens Valley Action
The Baakens River Valley
BAAKENS VALLEY ACTION

Issues to be addressed

Impacts of infrastructure

There are the 17 bridges and causeways which impact physically on the Baakens River Valley by inhibiting flow and removing riparian vegetation on the banks. During high flow, the bridges cause debris to build up, increasing flood risk.

Habitat loss

Habitat loss is a critical factor in the Valley and greater protection and restrictions need to be enforced. The greatest threats occur at the source and mouth of the River. The source of the river is being threatened as development has begun to occur on the sponges which has not only destroyed a large portion of endemic vegetation, but will affect the quantity and quality of the water in the river. Development has also completely degraded the last two kilometres of the river by filling in the original estuary lake and canalising the river. The tidal estuary has been destroyed and is now kept permanently open as it flows into the polluted harbour. However, it is important to remember that the fight against habitat loss should not completely disregard positive development which draws people into the Valley and current initiatives to develop and rehabilitate the river mouth should be supported.

Stormwater pollution

The Baakens River catchment includes a large portion of Port Elizabeth with the result that most of the city’s stormwater runs directly into the river. This is worsened by the large degree of impermeable surfaces in the catchment which increases the speed and amount of run-off as well as polluting the water through dissolved chemicals and toxins. Other alternatives could be put in place within the principles of Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDS) to reduce this impact.

Sewage pollution

The city’s major sewage line runs down the length of the Baakens River. This system is outdated and maintenance is poor resulting in sewage leakage into the river.

Flood

Flooding of the river occurs frequently due to the increase in water run-off and the impact of urban infrastructure on the natural river course. This is particularly bad at critical intersections and negatively impacts on the residents of Port Elizabeth.

Fire

The high occurrence of Fynbos in the Valley presents a natural fire hazard due to fynbos needing fire to germinate. This is worsened by the encroachment of development and roads, presenting a hazard to city residents.

Security

The current users of the Valley are hikers, bird watchers, runners, mountain bikers, school groups and the occasional tourist. Activity in the Valley has been drastically reduced over the past 20 years as crime incidents have increased. However, this is slowly turning around and various group initiatives place the presence of Baakens Valley rangers have gone a long way to improve the security.

Alien vegetation (find “hack” image?”)

Alien vegetation is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity in the Valley. A number of hack group have recently undertaken to combat this problem with positive results, but the size of the problem is too large and a proper regular maintenance team is needed.

Alien fauna

Alien fish are also negatively impacting on the health of the river as they compete with the indigenous fish. This is of particular importance for the almost extinct Redfin Minnow of which only two are thought to be remaining in the river.