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Wetlands given a hands up

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Wetlands given a hands up
“Dumping and littering doesn’t just spoil the beauty of the wetland but kills life and puts people at risk, especially children,” said Sara Best(25), an Environmental Manager with NCC Environmental Services.

Ms Best was speaking to The Constantiaberg Bulletin at a community event organized by NCC to clean the wetland up. Responding to their public invitation, 29 locals, including children, members of the US consulate, students and employees of NCC turned up on Thursday May 23, to lend a helping hand. 

According to Ms Best, the wetland is vital to the community because it cleans the water and provides a natural home to a diverse assortment of fauna and flora. When too much dumping and littering occurs in a wetland, the waterways are clogged up and water contamination and E coli can become a real threat to people, plants and animal life. 

“A Pollsmoor Prison employee recently made an anonymous phone call, complaining that she was not able to drive across the stream that runs through the wetland and the Pollsmoor property because it was blocked to overflowing by dirty nappies and other rubbish,” Ms Best said. “Around the same time I saw kids from the community playing in the park. It might seem like innocent fun but these kids could become seriously ill.”

According to her, each household in the community has one rubbish bin but because many people live in the backyards of these homes, the one dustbin becomes inadequate. People then just dump their garbage instead of paying or making another plan to have it removed.

Mr Jim Emery(48), the Facility Manager of the US Consulate, said that he and his two colleagues had responded to the invitation to volunteer because they wanted to help improve the neighbourhood. “The consulate overlooks the wetland so we can see how it is getting spoilt. A few endangered leopard frogs also live in the park, so it’s vital that we keep the wetland pollution free,” he said. 

This is the third time this year that NCC have organized a community clean-up of the wetland. After having been the Environmental Control Officers on duty while the boardwalk across the park was being built, Ms Best said NCC decided to focus most of their Corporate Social Investment(CSI) efforts in 2013 on cleaning and protecting the Westlake wetlands.

“Our hope is to educate and inspire the local community to take ownership of the wetlands themselves,” said Linda Mare(31) of NCC, “and a big strategy of ours is to hold talks with learners at the local schools. If they know what a wetland is, how important it is, what insects, birds, animals and plants live there then perhaps they would realize how damaging it is to throw their sweet papers or cans on the ground.”

A young man who knows just how damaging littering can be is a learner from Westlake Primary, Thanda Goqo(12). When he and three of his friends, Breyton Aarendse(12), Deswill Malgas(13), both of Westlake Primary and Jose Steyn(13) of Constantia Primary saw people cleaning the protected area up, they immediately volunteered their services.
“When other kids throw their rubbish down I tell them it is unhealthy and that they need to pick it up for their own good and the good of others,” the young Mr Goqo explained.

Ms Best added that other than the reaching out to the youth in the area, they were hoping to find someone in the community who would be willing to start a recycling scheme. “That person could start small, making money by collecting cans, glass and paper; but it would eventually grow into something much bigger,” she explained.

The City of Cape Town had also made an effort to protect the wetland from being polluted by erecting fences all along the boardwalk and around its boundary. These efforts have been hampered by panels of the fence being broken, giving people access to dump their garbage, or stolen to be sold for scrap metal.

On the day of the clean-up, other than general littering, mounds of building rubble lay in heaps all over the wetland as well as household items like a whole carpet. According to Ms Best, the City of Cape Town has been very good in coming alongside the community to help protect their wetland. “At the time of the last clean-up, 10 fence panels were missing or broken, but thankfully Talcott Persent of the City of Cape Town made an effort to replace or fix them,” Ms Best said, pointing out that one or two panels were already missing or broken. 

NCC is planning to do another two or three clean-ups this year. Those members of the public or businesses in the area who would like to get involved can contact Ms Best via e-mail: sarab@ncc-group.co.za 

Words and images by freelance writer and photographer Clinton Wittstock

Article appeared in the Constantiaberg Bulletin

Thursday May 30 2013

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