50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 107

collective life support system, the rivers entrusted to us as stewards of God’s creation. In quiet, reflective moments -- rare during my active struggle, all too plenty during confinement -- I recalled very well the clear, cold streams that I grew up with around Qunu and Umtata in the Transkei region of South Africa. These sustain the health of our bodies and of our spirits.” Mandela, ever-candid, also acknowledged the pros and cons of big dams: “I joined (Kader Asmal) in a ceremonial event, to proudly inaugurate the Lesotho Highlands Project as a - no, not as a “monument to the democratic State,” as some leaders might say, nor as a “temple of doom,” as critics may call it - but as a dam - a means to an end - which as one option among others, emerged as our best option under the circumstances, nothing more, or less. Was it our best tool? Were other options overlooked? Perhaps. We were elected to take hard decisions, under pressure. I believe ours was the right choice at the time. But no one knew for sure.” At the very least we who love the Umko need to be sure all the choices are fairly and exhaustively evaluated before we agree to ending the life of this river and this valley, its rapids and its biodiversity drowned under yet another dam. We need to research and evaluate those other options now, not wait until some developers, smelling millions, start a campaign to dam the river, with their usual PR promises of riches and jobs that seldom materialise. Explore more Long after you have stopped racing the Umko you may still want to paddle it. Or raft down it. Or take your grandkids down it. Here’s a 2015 Deepdale to Hella Hella trip about to launch -158 Umkos between them, many more anno dominis - and two of those grandkids we need to bear in mind! Let the free-running Umko be our legacy to those kids. Go and explore sections you’ve not paddled on before: • Vergelegen to Impendle • Impendle to Lundy’s Hill • Lundy’s to Deepdale - this section has been raced and is going to be drowned by a dam • Deepdale to Hella Hella Our freshwaters are in worse shape than tropical rainforests Cumulatively the world’s dams have re-plumbed rivers in a massive experiment that has left the planet’s freshwaters in far worse shape than any other major ecosystem type, including tropic al rainforests. Dams bring more problems than they solve. They flood large areas, force people to relocate, threaten freshwater biodiversity, disrupt subsistence fisheries, drown our beloved rapids and leave rivers dry – substantially affecting the ecosystem. America is now undoing the damage they caused by starting to remove dams2. However, the developing countries that are 107 Notice the third “tiny” blue bubble below the second? That one represents fresh water in all the lakes and rivers on the planet3. planning to build dams should not repeat the mistakes developed countries made. Instead of building dams that offer quick fixes but invite newer problems, developing countries should be looking to invest in reducing wastage, going small and local, recycling and re-using, plus true renewable energies like wind and solar. (Look again, already the numbers are different to when you last heard them dismissed as ‘impossible’!). Peter Bosshard, Executive Director of International Rivers, comments: “Trying to dam our way out of climate change would mean to cut the planet’s arteries in order to save her lungs.” . Dams in warm areas emit large amounts of methane, a highly aggressive greenhouse gas. A peer-reviewed article has estimated reservoir emissions to account for 4% of all human-made climate change - about the same contribution as all the aircraft flying in our skies. . Dams and pollution have decimated rivers: Freshwater ecosystems have lost more species than any other major ecosystem. Given the added pressure of climate change on freshwater species, more large dams would lead to the collapse of many critically important ecosystems. We need to regard freeflowing rivers as a precious and irreplaceable resource. Please don’t let the naysayers and the quick-fixers distract us - people always dismiss new ways and new ideas. Then - thanks to a few who wouldn’t accept that “established beliefs “ are the only way possible - the new ways suddenly become do-able. We CAN change things - and we CAN refuse to let some good things change. “The stakes are high, because healthy rivers, like all intact ecosystems, are priceless. The alternative, quite simply, is a persistent legacy of human and environmental destruction.” We do NOT have to wait until we’re in dire straits before SAVING and RECYCLING water! Now that they’re in desperate straits, and the Colorado UMKO 50 Years