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The volume of litter and pollution emanating from the mouth of Durban’s Umgeni River could start to ease if a new river clearing project takes root.
“Our standard approach for 25 years has been: ‘The river is dirty and full of litter again. So this weekend, let’s all gather and do a clean-up’.
“Everyone gets stuck in and feels quite good – but a week or two later the river is back to it’s polluted best!” says Paolo Candotti, chairman of the Kloof Conservancy.
Doing things the same old way clearly isn’t working, he says, pointing to the mountains of plastic bottles and other litter that wash down the Umgeni River and end upon the Durban beachfront after heavy rains.
Now the Kloof Conservancy and other groups under the umbrella of the eThekwini Conservancies Forum have decided to start tackling the problem from another angle.
“The approach we are taking to this project is to work with communities that live along the river with a view to developing community capacity to take responsibility for the health of the river – to stop the degradation at the source (and this includes industries located next to rivers).
“It is ambitious, and given the complexities of our society, we don’t know if this approach will work – but we are going to give it our best shot!” Candotti declares.
The conservancies forum has also secured funding for a pilot project that will be launched officially today.
As part of the “Take back our rivers” project, the conservancies began their first experimental project in July with financial support from the eThekwini municipality and the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK.
The first project, along a section of the Aller River in New Germany, will involve engaging with local communities and schools to develop a better understanding of their relationship and impact on the river.
The Aller River, a tributary of the Umgeni River, starts its journey near the Berkshire Downs residential area.
Then it passes through the New Germany industrial area and skirts Clermont before joining the Umgeni near Newlands West.
The Take back our Rivers pilot project will focus first on the first 6km stretch of the river and will be run by a small team which will comprise mainly volunteers.
They hope to draw on some of the work done previously by the Duzi-Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) that has pioneered various river clean-up projects.
This includes erecting floating booms on the Umgeni River to intercept litter and a project to collect and recycle plastic bottles before they reach the sea.
For more information contact info@kloofconservancy. org.za.