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WESSA partners with extreme swimmers to heighten awareness around the state of our rivers

Oct 20, 2015
Category: Press Release

Extreme swimmers Andrew Chin and Henko Roukema have set off to swim the Berg River in the Western Cape from source to sea, aiming to highlight the deteriorating state of our country’s rivers and to stimulate action and discussion by the relevant authorities, affected communities and the general public towards saving these vital water resources. 

This is the second event of the “Rivers for Life” extreme swimming challenge that was launched by Capetonian Andrew Chin in January 2015. The challenge involves a small group of athletes that is attempting over a three year period to swim a distance of 100 to 350km in a major river in each of South Africa’s nine provinces.  The first swim took place in the Wilge River in the Free State in January 2015, during which Andrew Chin and Toks Viviers swam 200km over a period of 10 days. 

WESSA strongly supports this initiative, which is in line with the organisation’s aim to promote public participation in caring for the earth.  One of the key objectives of WESSA’s water programme is to ensure the health of strategic water catchments and rivers through the monitoring and reporting of the state of our country’s water resources.

WESSA has equipped the swimmers with the skills required to conduct river health tests using the popular miniSASS citizen science tool, which is used to calculate a river health index based on the collection and identification of invertebrates (small aquatic insects) in a water sample.  The swimmers will be using this tool to monitor water quality along the length of the Berg River by conducting tests at regular intervals.  The results will be uploaded as scientific data onto the Google Earth map and database, which will contribute to building a picture of the health of South Africa’s rivers.

After hiking to the source of the Berg River at Assegaaibosch Kloof over the weekend, the swimmers started their endeavour yesterday with a swim across the Berg River dam in Franschhoek, and then entered the river below the dam. 

About 8km from the start the swimmers were met on the river bank by a large group of enthusiastic supporters, including representatives from WESSA, participants on the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Youth Environmental Services (YES) Programme, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning’s Berg River Improvement Project (BRIP), Awesome South Africans online platform, environmental consulting company Ground Truth, the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, and teachers and learners from Bridge House School in Franschhoek.

Chin and Roukema gave a short talk on the purpose and importance of the initiative, before a miniSASS river health test was conducted by WESSA with the help of the Bridge House learners. The swimmers then re-entered the river and - supported by a paddler and a backup vehicle - they will now follow the course of the river for approximately 200km, with the goal of arriving at the mouth in Velddrif on the West Coast within ten days. 

The swimmers will face numerous challenges along the way, including a deterioration in the quality of the water they are swimming in caused by sewerage overflows, agricultural and other polluted inflows.

The swimmers are being supported by a number of partners and sponsors including AEE South Africa, Awesome South Africans, Aqua 4 Life, Healing Earth Africa, Speedo, Travel with Flair (Cape Town) and WESSA.



Photo links and captions:

Rivers for Life 1:  Swimmers Andrew Chin and Henko Roukema (centre) with participants on the Department of Environmental Affairs’ WESSA-implemented Youth Environmental Services (YES) Programme, WESSA staff and a representative from Awesome South Africans (back)

Rivers for Life 2: Swimmers Andrew Chin and Henko Roukema stop to give a short talk on the purpose and importance of the Rivers for Life initiative to supporters along the river in Franschhoek

Rivers for Life 3:   Swimmers Andrew Chin and Henko Roukema in the Berg River in Franschhoek


Social media:

Follow the swimmers on Facebook


For more information contact: 

Catherine Ritchie, WESSA Marketing & Communications Manager
Tel          021 701 1397
Cell         082 321 2794