Among all the doom and gloom and stinking rivers there is an intriguing ray of hope - the Healing the Hennops campaign. And it is gathering extraordinary momentum!
On 29 and 30 March a river clean-up and wetland restoration of the Rietspruit (a Hennops River tributary) took place in Olievenhoutbosch, spearheaded by FRESH.ngo.
About 400 people joined in over the two days to help – a surprising mix of families, NGOs, companies, Tshwane officials, various experts, church groups, and even a band!
“Why go through all this effort - the rubbish keeps coming down the river!" I said to Willem Snyman of FRESH.ngo, who pioneered the restoration campaign. Willem is a dreamer and an activist - an unusual combination.
“The first steps of this dream are to start at the beginning – fixing the problems at the fountain-heads of our rivers," he explains. "We want to establish Source Parks here, which will protect these fountain-heads. If we get this right it will proceed to reseed original life downstream, coming from these regenerated wildlife sanctuaries.
“In the past few months we’ve worked upstream at various fountain-heads flowing into the Hennops, and this past weekend we tackled the Rietspruit in Olievenhoutbosch. The Rietspruit source has become seriously impacted and its wetlands degraded,” says Willem. “It is used as a public dump site, encroached on all sides by houses and it’s overgrown with kikuyu and weeds. The stream banks have been eroded by storm water and sand mining, and filled with trash. There is even a road servitude running through the top of this wetland to replace the current dirt path - hopefully this impractical road will never be built and kept only for pedestrians.
“The clean-up was a huge success – such a great privilege to be surrounded by so many good people, freely giving their time and energy. The volunteers made a massive impact over two days of intensive cleaning, educating and teaching by practical example. It is hoped that from this restored central park an environmental consciousness will spread through the community, realising the value of keeping our wetlands clean and pure water sources to keep us disease-free, nurture us and our rivers and heal our world.”
“There is a great need and desire for a community park in this idyllic spring-water area with its natural reed ponds. This wetland could become the centre point for rehabilitating this whole area, and to start a nature trail along this green corridor.
BluSwirl a waste management company that has been a valuable partner in this ongoing restoration campaign removed 300 bags of trash filled by volunteers who often had to drag half-buried pieces out of the soil. "The removal process was not without drama," sighed BluSwirl's owner, Anton Francois Bailey. "The trailer got stuck and the axle broke!"
Bianca Wannenburg of the Khuthaza Foundation set up an EcoBrick-making station where kids were taught how to make EcoBricks by compacting unrecyclable soft plastics into empty plastic bottles. This was accompanied by much chatter and laughter.
“Aqua é Vida's hydration station kept everyone well nourished and showed us the value of clean, living, drinking water for our health. In the shade under the tent we feasted on watermelon and loads of fruit, boosting the health of all. A great thanks to all the volunteers who came to help, mingling withn the community and working side by side towards the greater goal of helping the planet, to restore our wetlands to a pristine state," said Willem.
Thirty-five donated indigenous trees and a dozen Spekboom succulents were planted in the moist area along the stream. “These will grow quickly to provide shade and prevent further erosion. A permaculture organic vegetable garden was also created, surrounded by the newly-planted trees and with canals dug to channel water through it. We'll return to establish more seedlings and keep evolving the park."
Expert Leigh Martin gave an informative practical demonstration on fungal growing and how mycology can purify polluted water. Boxes of Oyster mushrooms and other indigenous ones were planted in the garden on the wetland edge.
ValorGreen played some cool tunes, their beautiful music created an energetic vibe while we worked, spreading their ecological message - especially to a large group of enthusiastically dancing children.
Mark Mcclue from ARMOUR gave the kids a practical demonstration in the principles of kayaking. This was a novel experience!
“These two days were a highly successful and inspiring cultural exchange, sharing energy and connecting with each other through working the earth to clean and save our natural water sources that unite us all. Sowing the seeds for a brighter, greener and sustainable future!” concluded Willem.
Next clean-up: May 18, Irene Dairy Farm/Southdowns Estate in Irene.