Hout Bay Disa River Pollution Protest

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 31 May 2010

IMBY (In My Back Yard), a community-oriented environmental awareness organization, held their ‘Join the Poo Parade’ protest at the Disa River mouth on Hout Bay Beach last Sunday.

Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor of Water Rhapsody Conservation Systems addressing Hout Bay residents on water quality and conservation

Local residents joined forces with various community organizations to protest the rivers’ pollution levels. The Disa River has the highest number of e-coli bacteria (an organism used in scientific testing to determine the level of fecal contamination in a body of water) ever recorded in South Africa.

It contains nine hundred million e-coli bacteria per 100ml water. Normal levels are just two hundred per 100ml.

Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor of the company ‘Water Rhapsody’ informed protestors that other factors affect water quality; in particular, the phosphates used in washing powders that promote blue and green algae growth.

When these algae die, their bodies release a chemical similar to cyanide, a highly potent toxin. Large algae populations flourish on phosphates, and the poisons released upon their death can kill any other life nearby. As grey water (waste water) currently enters the river, this is a concern for the Disa River biosphere and environs.

Mr. Westgarth-Taylor also emphasized the importance of water conservation, stating that it’s currently not cost-effective for government to prioritise the saving of water and that there is much individuals can do to help stem the water crisis in South Africa.

Dr. Justin O’Riain, an associate professor at UCT’s Zoology division and member of the Resident’s Association of Hout Bay (RAHB), had good news to share. The Imizamo-Yethu-based group ‘Sinethemba Civic Association’ is instituting legal action alongside RAHB against the City, to accelerate development in the area.

In 2006 Helen Zille proposed the Spatial Development Framework, which is currently in its sixth phase after residents rejected previous versions. Imizamo Yethu’s planned upgrade is currently low down the list of communities scheduled for re-development and upliftment by local government.

The planned legal action will attempt to get a higher priority for Imizamo Yethu, making the transformation begin earlier rather than later. The plan includes housing and retail outlets, schools and better infrastructure for all residents – including proper sanitation. Dr. O’Riain stated his belief that Imizamo Yethu is already an integral part of Hout Bay society and should be as self-sustaining as possible. Upgrades of this kind could ensure a healthier, better integrated living environment for all of Hout Bay’s residents.

Danielle Klaff of Envirochild, an organization commited to sustainable living in and around Hout Bay, commented that a positive attitude can go a long way in helping the community to solve the Disa River pollution problem.

Taking a spiritual and insightful perspective, she told protestors that a better quality of life results from positive actions taken, for ones’ self and the community; and helped to remind them why they were there: to join together for a common interest, to share information and communicate with each other; and to remember that people are actively seeking solutions to the problem.

The protest ended with a beach clean-up and a performance by a Gugulethu-based marimba band. One enterprise is flourishing as a result of river pollution, however:  sales of Imodium (an anti-diarrhea drug) in Hout Bay are at an all-time high. It is hoped that Hout Bay pharmacies are well-stocked for the upcoming World Cup season.

– Michael Bardouleau
Contact IMBY at mbardouleau@hotmail.com or on 0827108862

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