Cape Town - Organisations and stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector joined Water and Sanitation Deputy Minister Dikeledi Magadzi in cleaning the Liesbeek River to commemorate World Rivers Day.
The aim was to raise public awareness about rivers and their conservation with a clean-up.
The river clean-up formed part of a symposium hosted by the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), together with local government, the City and research institutions, which included canoeing and water sampling to celebrate World Rivers Day.
Delivering the keynote address, Magadzi said: “We are observing this day when the health of our rivers is threatened by pollution. Remember, when we pollute the river in one place, we affect the condition of the river for a long distance downstream.
“It goes without saying that clean water is essential for humans and nature to survive, and when they are so badly polluted by industry or unevenly distributed by poor water management practices, it can be a case of life or death.”
Magadzi said the DWS has set aside key interventions to ensure healthy river ecosystems but also encouraged active and responsible citizenry across spectrum where people from all walks of life become participants in promoting healthy rivers.
She commended the work carried out by Embekweni Eco Club, a youth-led organisation involved in the protection and improvement of Berg River water quality, and Friends of the Liesbeek, a volunteer group which has been conserving and rehabilitating the Liesbeek River since 1991.
Friends of the Liesbeek, programme manager Sabelo Memani, explained that the history of the river was associated with the history of the beer-making industry.
“Historically, there have been a number of breweries found along the river, including the Newlands Brewery. The river has been transformed over the years due to increasing developments and it has been canalised with very little diversity left,” Memani said.
Memani highlighted the challenges of the river, including the scourge of alien invasive species, pollution from ongoing developments in the area and from stormwater drains, as well litter and dumping.
“One of the major problems we face in the urban context is the everyday problem of pollution, which is experienced on a regular basis from stormwater effects and the many developments happening along the Liesbeek River,” Memani said.
Local government MEC Anton Bredell said this river was a reminder of how difficult it can be to balance conservation and economic development as its ecological value also attracted economic interests.
Bredell said World Rivers Day was a reminder to the government that its budget priorities should also reflect the importance of conservation and environmental management.
“Some people will argue that there are more pressing needs to address. Infrastructure such as Eskom, housing, rail networks and harbours.
“These are all important, but without healthy rivers and their ability to sustain towns and cities, there won’t be a need for such infrastructure, as those local economies will not exist,” Bredell said.
Water and Sanitation Mayco member Zahid Badroodien added: “Tackling pollution in waterways, including rivers and wetlands, is everyone’s business. The City wants to acknowledge the valuable role and accountability that partnerships with communities have to improve the health of waterways.”