by Willem Snyman fresh.ngo
On December 15 I met with various parties along the river and found many positive initiatives. Fortunately, the recent rains were not so heavy as to endanger the Kaalfontein riparian community. Starting at river source with a meeting with community leaders that was led by DA Councillor Otto Kgeletsane (who has emerged as a key figure to find a solution to this river invasion), an agreement was reached with the people to stop the dumping in the wetland and report the trucks when they arrive with their loads of building rubble. The original self-appointed developer Harry turns out to have many criminal connections and not to represent the community. Money has been made by developers partitioning off the levelled river bank and these dump site stands are sold along with prefabricated "mkuku" (chicken) shacks. Unfortunately, the community on the other side of the stream are continuing to dump and develop, led by two more shady characters. Another unconnected EFF group on the other side of the bridge are busy building a very dangerous small township right in the stream-bed, all unserviced. Residents and the community are unhappy about this invasion in front of their properly built houses. Unserviced shacks bring crime and foreigners in they say. This precious wetland is under great threat, parts already irreparably damaged by the rubble dumping that is still advancing mercilessly over reeds and banks to the stream.
Kirsty Blain, who bravely visited the area, has a reed drinking straw business and says that these local reeds can perhaps be sustainably harvested in the upper areas where the fountain still runs pure, to create jobs and give value to the wetland. We are also planning collaborative cleanup events.
Lower down the river I met with Karla Jooste at the large riverside curch property and park of Lewende Woord and saw many inspiring alien clearing and tree planting efforts. The volumes of plastic waste washed up there is shocking. Plans were dicussed for collaborative cleanup campaigns involving other churches and schools in the area. If each community can take ownership of their area and help maintain it, the battle can be won.
Next we visited Agua e' Vida and were shown how, with an electronic separation device, a thick layer of brown gunk emerges from normal tap water. It also doesn't conduct electricity from a plug until the correct minerals are added. It was made clear to us that tap water no longer supports the optimal health of our bodies.
In the evening we met with Jesse Naidoo and Tammy Jooste of Clothes for Good - a recycling project empowering children with disabilities in disadvantaged communities. Recycling programmes were discussed that can be implemented in Kaalfontein to empower people and deal with the huge volumes of waste piling up before it enters the river. Educational possibilities were planned along with the global movement Design for Change that is empowering students to create and develop solutions in their community. With the five schools surrounding the Kaalfontein Wetland, perhaps solutions can be found by learners and their voices help pressure and save the most precious part of their community and environment. There are many plans for positive change in the New Year to rescue our river and return life and health to our environment.