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POINTING at a fisherman on the banks of Princess Vlei in Grassy Park, a young girl solemnly told Philip Bam: “He’s a murderer.”
“I quickly explained that he would throw the fish back, but I think it says a lot about children wanting to save nature and their appreciation for the environment,” Bam said.
Environmental protection was just one of the goals expressed at the launch of the People’s Plan for Princess Vlei yesterday.
Bam, a co-ordinator for the Princess Vlei Forum and chairman of the Lotus River, Ottery, Grassy Park Ratepayers’ and Residents Association (Logra), was joined by community members and conservationists to promote the alternative plan for the wetland.
The rally included a walking tour, picnics and braaing along the shore, and more information about the development plan.
Residents have been fighting against the proposed development of a shopping mall on the vlei since 2009. The plan was initially rejected by the city, but developers were given the go-ahead in April by the provincial government despite community opposition.
“It’s inappropriate development. We’re not against all development, but it should be something that maintains a public open space,” Bam said. “You can’t have something that the people don’t want.”
The People’s Plan includes a number of components meant to improve the site’s cultural, historical and environmental significance.
“Don’t rob us, don’t rob our children and don’t rob our grandchildren of the beauty that’s been given to us,” community member Edward Copperfield said.
Residents propose a number of alternative developments including a cultural centre, as a “space for education”.
The community also plans to recreate a Khoisan village to establish more understanding of the area’s historical significance.
Bam thinks the area is important as a place of “remembering” what it meant to the first people in the Cape and how it was used during the colonial era, the apartheid years, the start of democracy and today.
There are also discussions about the establishing of overnight urban hiking trails to Elephant’s Eye Cave and the Macassar Dunes, and the continuation of a community-led ecological rehabilitation project.
On June 16, supporters of the People’s Plan for Princess Vlei will return to the area for a protest rally.