Cape Town is SA’s first city accredited with international Wetland City status

A view of the Zandvlei estuary with Muizenberg Peak in the distance. Picture: David Rogers

A view of the Zandvlei estuary with Muizenberg Peak in the distance. Picture: David Rogers

Published Nov 15, 2022


Cape Town - Cape Town has became the first South African city to be accredited as an international Wetland City, and one of only 43 around the world, at the 14th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Wetlands in Geneva, Switzerland.

The city was rewarded for “exceptional efforts” to safeguard its urban wetlands.

The city’s wetlands have been in the spotlight for decades with rampant sewage spills, environmental degradation, and a worrying culture among residents of dumping into these waterways.

To combat this, the City has been ramping up its efforts to protect, rehabilitate and restore these wetlands through a multitude of interventions and policies, including the Mayoral Priority Programme, focused on the water quality improvement of rivers and wetlands – which received a big chunk of the City’s budget.

Over the next three years, at least R350 million will go to remediating recreational vleis as part of the Priority Programme established by Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis to ensure cleaner waterways and protect the environment.

Deputy Mayor and spatial planning and environment Mayco member, Eddie Andrews, said the preservation of Cape Town’s natural assets was a key priority for the City, not only because it was the right thing to do, but also because the natural environment offers protection from natural disasters and ensured future resilience to climate change.

Alex Lansdowne, chairperson of the City’s mayoral advisory committee on water quality in wetlands and waterways, said the Wetland City status acknowledged the global significance of the wetlands found all around Cape Town.

“Our wetlands will become increasingly important as Cape Town grows. The only way we can fulfil the obligation acknowledged in the Wetland City status is by working with important community conservation groups which add so much value,” Lansdowne said.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) spokesperson, Albi Modise, added: “The city is recognised as a global hotspot of biodiversity and thus has a corresponding number of rare and threatened wetlands supporting many endemic fauna and flora species.

“These wetlands include Rietvlei and Milnerton lagoon (part of the Table Bay Nature Reserve), the Zandvlei estuary, Edith Stephens wetlands, False Bay Nature Reserve (a wetland of international importance), the Noordhoek wetlands and many others.”

Over the past 20 years, the City has implemented several initiatives, both inside and outside of protected areas, with the aim of rehabilitating wetlands and conserving these natural assets.

Martha Rojas Urrego, secretary-general of the Convention on Wetlands, said the Wetland City accreditation scheme was an important opportunity for cities and local governments to integrate wetland conservation and sustainable management with sustainable development and delivery of vital services.

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