Guesthouse owners and farmers on the banks of the Vaal River, near Bloemhof, in the North West, say they have suffered severe damages and loss in revenue. This is after the dam sluices were opened a few days ago, without proper warning from the Water and Sanitation Department.
Farmers say they could not remove their water pumps in time, and many people camping and fishing near the river, had to be evacuated.
The Bloemhof Dam, the third biggest in the country, is currently on 107% capacity. This is due to an upsurge in the level of the Vaal Dam. The situation then compelled authorities to open the sluices.
Now businesses on the banks of the river are affected.
Guesthouse owner, Sias Meyer, says he has lost almost R80 000.
“On the weekend, when the water was last high as this, everybody cancelled and moved out because nobody can fish down here. They could stay here, but could not fish as the water was too high. So, economically, it also has a great effect on the tourism industry – loss of revenue. Personally, I lost between R50 000 and R80 000.”
Farms along the river have also been severely affected, as irrigation pumps are flooded.
Farmer, Pieter Van Zyl says, “The farmers actually struggle to get all the equipment out of the way and that severe damages could be had by the farmers. If your fields are flooded, your pumps are flooded then obviously there are financial damages with regards to the flooding. If your equipment is below the 50-year or even the 20-year flood line there is no coverage with regards to flooding.”
One of the fishermen in the area, Piet Mogamme, says due to flooding they could not fish.
“Since I arrived here, I have not even managed to catch one fish, and it’s possible that I will go home without any success. The problem is that the water is too strong as they have opened water from the dam. So, it means I must just give up and go home.”
Water and Sanitation officials say those downstream from the Vaal Dam were alerted in time.
Department Spokesperson Sputnik Ratau, says, “Communities have been advised accordingly to remove livestock and to avoid fishing and swimming in the flooding waters. We must also emphasise that farming and mining activities along the Vaal and Orange River systems have also been warned to remove water pumps and equipment from the banks and the vicinity of the system in order to avoid damage.”
With the continued downpours across the country, it is expected that the dam levels will still rise even more.