Teaching Water Awareness the Practical Way

Dr Thomas Gyedu-Ababio, the Kruger National Park's aquatic biodiversity conservation manager, celebrated water week together with pupils from schools in both the Phalaborwa and Nkomazi regions. His informative presentations and water sampling exercises helped drive home to the schoolchildren the importance of water, under the international theme of "Water is Life".

The pupils were amazed to discover how many small animals, mostly invertebrates, are found in the vegetation, water and mud on the edges of a river. The learners were shown how to use the animals to provide a "score" on the health of the rivers. The Crocodile River and the Selati River were sampled in the two regions.

Dr Gyedu-Ababio informed the attentive audience of some water statistics, including the fact that it is estimated that 12 million people die each year due to lack of water, and that last century the world's population tripled, but the world water consumption multiplied by six. He pointed out that one in five people does not have access to safe drinking water, and that 20 percent of fresh water fish are now endangered or extinct. Half the world's wetlands also disappeared last century.

He named various sources of water pollution, and told the students what they would see if a water system was polluted, including foaming water, fish kills, algal blooms, and how the colour, taste, smell and temperature of water changed with pollution. He encouraged the pupils to create awareness of the importance of water, and told them who to report pollution events to. Dr Gydeu-Ababio emphasised, "Water re-source management is not the task of only one person, company or a few but for everybody."

He thanked the organisations that helped make the two water days a success, including the Malelane Municipality, the Crocodile River Irrigation Board, TSB, the Phalaborwa Municipality, the Phalaborwa Foundation and Foskor. He made special mention of the Phalaborwa councillor, who spoke well on the importance of water. Dr Gyedu-Ababio called on other stakeholders who did not play a part in the functions to identify such programmes in the future in order to contribute. "It is their social responsibility to do that."

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