Quathlamba, the Barrier of Spears.
The majesty of the Drakensberg Mountains.
Their stark peaks rise potently up to the blue African skies; their cracks and crevices hold the painted secrets of an ancient land. But the rocky crags of the Drakensberg hold more than the spiritual origins of our ancestors. The source of life itself, water, springs from their deepest heart.
In a land that contains deserts and wetlands, sub-tropical forests and bushveld, oceans and mountains within its borders, nothing is as beautiful as the sight and sound of pure drinkable water tumbling over granite boulders, home to sparkling rainbow trout.
Left: After a long hike under the gruelling African sun, the cold, clear waters of the Injisuthi River, high in the central Drakensberg Mountains, provide a welcome relief. (Photo: Judy Croome)
We leave the mountain retreat, winding our way over dirt roads as herdsmen shoo their cattle out into the grazing lands. Friendly children try and outrace the car as women, some carrying overflowing water buckets on their heads, sway gracefully under their heavy loads.
We drive away from the water sources in the mountains, and watch as the natural water supplies become more polluted and contaminated. Already, over 50% of our wetlands have been destroyed in the search for urbanisation and human progress. The pastoral simplicity of the scenes we carry back with us to the hustling city, with its safe clean drinking water (South Africa is one of only twelve countries in the world where the quality of the tap-water is so high that it’s safe to drink) and easy sanitation, hides a darker side to the importance of water in this land that has, on average, an annual rainfall of 500mm (considerably less than the world average of 860mm per annum.)*
The United Nations Blog Action Day 2010 has focused on the need for bringing water to the millions of people, like the women who live in the foothills of the Drakensberg, who still have no direct access to clean water. In this vital search for a solution, let us not forget the environment. The fish, the birds, the animals—even the water itself—must be considered as important a factor as the demands of an ever-increasing human population.
For water is the source of ALL life; not only that of an insatiable humanity.
(*) Information obtained from “About South Africa”