The Department of Water and Sanitation is introducing a Canal Awareness Campaign across the country to help reduce the number of drowning incidents.
Themed 'Canals and Inland Waterways Safety is Everyone's Responsibility', the awareness campaign aims to promote safety in and around water infrastructure, as well as for inland waterways.
June marks the start of the Canal Awareness Campaign, which is spearheaded by the Department of Water and Sanitation to curb drowning incidents in canals.
The campaign was prompted by a spate of drowning among children, who met their fate while playing or swimming in canals.
The latest statistics indicate that at least two children drown in South Africa daily while playing or swimming in canals. For the moment, however, the tragic incidents appear to be limited to KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, North West and Limpopo, the department said.
The Minister of Water and Sanitation, Gugile Nkwinti, recently attended a funeral of eight-year-old Muaheera Muller of Koekenap in the Western Cape, who died while swimming in a nearby canal.
According to the Medical Research Council, drowning incidents usually occur among children under the age of 14 years.
The council consistently lists these incidents as among the highest causes of accidental deaths in under-aged children.
Drowning and near drowning incidents occur across both recreational and non-recreational activities.
However, drowning incidents are not limited to children, as water is a convergence point for many religious practices.
Many communities also collect water from canals for household and consumption purposes, and this also poses a risk.
The department said during the campaign, greater emphasis will be directed to communities who live close to canals and other types of water infrastructure and inland waterways.
The canal safety campaign will also target learners in schools to create awareness about the dangers in canals. With a few tips such as not swimming in canals, not collecting water in canals, crossing canals only through bridges, the campaign hopes to save many lives through awareness, the department said.
Canal safety rules
Do not let children go near canal without supervision.
Do not fish in canals.
Do not walk or play on bridges or with gates near the canals.
Do not fetch water from canals.
Do not perform ritual practices along the canals.
Report children playing near canals.
Stay away from canal banks because they can be muddy and slippery.
Do not vandalise signages or remove fencing around the canals.
Source: South African Government News Agency