Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied

Creating awareness of the challenges facing surface water

By Terry van der Walt Time of article published Feb 9, 2021

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Across Mzansi people are wading into polluted rivers to remove plastic and other debris that poses a threat to delicate ecosystems, as well as threatening our water security. Among the many initiatives is Armour – Action For Responsible Management of Our Rivers.

This is their story.

Armour began in October 2015 in response to the decanting of raw sewage into the Jukskei River from Northern Wastewater Treatment Works, the largest in Gauteng.

Following a petition demanding accountability, organised by Armour and delivered to Joburg Water and private and state bodies across South Africa, emergency funding was allocated to tackle the worst problems at the works.

This led to the formation of the Jukskei River Working Group which brought together senior officials from Joburg Water, the City of Joburg, the national department of water and sanitation and a range of private sector bodies, including Armour, to monitor the works and its performance.

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Armour then began working with other organisations involved in river and wetland health to create awareness of the challenges facing surface water.

It also set up a Facebook page to link citizen activists addressing these issues across the country. Over the past two years, Armour has joined up with other activist NGOs involved in river and wetland clean-ups, including Fresh, Hennops Revival, Cetric Foundation of Diepsloot, residents of Tembisa, several residents’ associations around the Jukskei River and its tributaries, HelpUp in the Western Cape and Harrismith Water Heroes. These clean-ups have lifted tons of garbage from the rivers within the greater catchment area.

Armour was also co-facilitator, two years ago, of the formation of the Gauteng River Network which brought together dozens of organisations across Gauteng involved in the care and conservation of rivers and wetlands.

Armour’s aim, through dialogue and action, is to help bring about clean, living waterways and rivers across South Africa, starting in Gauteng. This will always be a collaboration across an ever-widening network of citizen activists and those authorities willing to accept their own accountability.

To reach this goal, Armour is continually seeking who and what to leverage to get the right human and material resources identified to effectively manage the Jukskei catchment system in Gauteng.

Armour is also using a very active Facebook to network with over 80 organisations involved in cleaning and rehabilitating rivers, wetlands, estuaries and beaches across the country.

Picture: Supplied

The rivers, wetlands and ecosystems of which they are part benefit from these different initiatives. Clean waterways boost the physical, mental and spiritual health of populations that impact on these waterways.

They are the arteries of the land. They will give invisible energy where now they are often degraded, and sometimes lifeless, cesspools.

Readers can help by continuing to raise awareness of the power of citizen action to help cure the sickness of our waterways. Simply Green can encourage this movement by publicising the many private endeavours across our beautiful land.

Five things Armour learnt along the way

1 Citizen action is a force for change – and encouragement for officials who want to make a difference but are constrained by the negative culture in their work environments.

2 Rivers and wetlands are visible symbols of the state of a nation.

3 Clean-up initiatives bring together people from across the traditional divides of society, breaking down barriers and creating common cause – a force for real nation-building.

4 Society has yet to discover the economic value in garbage.

5 Enforcing producer responsibility for their polluting products is long overdue.

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