NGO inspires homeless to clean up one of Cape Town’s most polluted rivers
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Cape Town - An NGO which helps homeless people to clean the environment is on a mission to clear up one of Cape Town’s most polluted rivers.
The HelpUp organisation is making use of the unemployed and homeless to help clear the Black River which runs through parts of the Cape Flats.
More than 330 cleaning jobs were created for people who were homeless or unemployed last year as part of this project.
Help Up’s founder Georgia McTaggart said that the team collects between two to three tons of litter over a six-hour period during weekends at the Black River Raapenberg site.
“This waste in the river poses a significant risk to the health of children in the area (high instances of impetigo, ringworm, intestinal worms, bacterial and viral infections.
“The damage to the environment is clear by the overgrowth of the alien invasive species water hyacinth, which thrives in nutrient-rich water.
“We have also found areas where blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) is proliferating and this is highly toxic,” she said.
She said that it is hazardous to clean plastic out of the Black River as the water is toxic.
It is also physically risky for them which is why they wear waders and have to navigate the river bed, which can be a slip hazard.
“The litter not only flows into the river from canals in informal settlements, it is also dumped from
cars that pass by, industrial dumping and stormwater outlets,” said
A member of the group from Langa, Sinethemba Qaka, visits the canal in Langa every Sunday to clean up the waste found in it.
McTaggart said the household waste found in this canal comes from the informal settlement.
The state of the canal has improved after it is cleaned every week but there is still waste being dumped.