Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 03 September 2010
Millions of South Africans, especially those that are without piped water, are directly dependent on the rivers for their livelihoods. Rivers get polluted easily, partly because there is lack of education on the side of communities and business on the importance of keeping them healthy.
Our river systems are connected naturally and artificially, through interbasin transfer schemes, making the transportation of pollutants from one catchment area to another possible.
Thankfully the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, has radically embarked on a campaign during the month of August, as part of women’s empowerment, to create awareness among South Africans of the need to care for our scarce water resources. This campaign promotes active participation of communities, especially women and youth in the Departmental programmes to ensure sustainability.
The Deputy Minister visited the Luvuvhu River in the Limpopo Region on 4 August 2010, which is polluted by wastes such as heavy metals, pesticides, chemical compounds from fertilisers, wastewater effluents and other solid waste. Water quality reports show that the Luvuvhu River and its tributaries already indicate high levels of faecal pollution and steady increases in phosphate and nitrates.
“Let us keep our rivers clean and stop the pollution that kills our fish and contaminates our water resources. When you educate a woman you educate the nation” said the Deputy Minister in her speech delivered in Limpopo.
The event in Limpopo culminated with a political commitment by high authorities, Premier Mathale, Executive Mayor of Vhembe District Municipality, Councillor Philemon Falaza Mdaka and Thulamela Mayor, and Councillor Vhamusanda Vho-Thivhulanwi Makumane, who all signed a pledge to keep Luvuvhu River clean, sustainably utilised and conserved.
As part of the Deputy Minister’s Public Participation Programme, the campaign extended to Kwa-Zulu Natal on 13 August 2010 where the Deputy Minister, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, was accompanied by a group of women who enthusiastically cleaned the Isipingo River in Umlazi Township.
When addressing the community of Umlazi, the Deputy Minister said “The Adopt–a-River project was started in 2008 in KZN and the government has never stopped supporting this initiative; KZN has always been active in this project and they called for support from the head office; I would like to congratulate KZN for the enthusiasm shown by women‘’.
Besides signing a political commitment to keep the river systems in Umlazi clean, the Executive Mayor of eThekwini, Obed Mlaba, and local authorities, presented the river cleaning tools to Umlazi women making their commitment more practical.
Taking lessons from local heroes
Michael Fani Mlangeni, in Umlazi U Section, is a resident who has been cleaning Isipingo River since 1976. He was excited to have the Deputy Minister and the eThekwini Executive Mayor, as well as local authorities, paying a visit to his park, popularly known as ‘How Long Park’. Michael started caring for Isipingo River by planting beautiful flower gardens making it an attractive community park for wedding celebrations, birthday parties and other community festivals.
When Michael started acting on his dream of converting a river bank into a park, he used to borrow tools from neighbours until he received seed funding from the United States. “The US sponsorship I received in 1990 from the Government of United States amounted to R2, 040 .00 which changed my life as I could comfortably proceed with the construction of the park using my own equipment “says Michael. “The eThekwini Municipality started appreciating the work I was doing by fully developing ‘How Long’ into a fully-fledged municipal park in 1998” says Michael.
Michael says “Everybody who visits the park has to sign the register to keep the history of the park for the next generations to come. I am happy to have the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs as a signatory on my register and also happy about the comments she made about this park”.
For taking care of Isipingo River, Michael’s work has been receiving both local and international recognition in the form of prestigious awards like Hero of Today by Reader’s Digest, Mayor’s Award for Excellence by eThekwini Municipality, and awards by the Mayor of Leeds in London .
In spite of the good lesson he is teaching the community, Michael is experiencing a challenge from people who continually pollute upstream, but that does not stop him from keeping the park in good order.
This report was produced in consultation with Water Affairs, the Department responsible for the roll-out of the Adopt-a-River Programme.
Source: Water Research Commission