Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG): A River of Filth

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A River of Filth

The Jukskei/Braamfontein Spruit river system, which originates in the city and runs through both the eastern suburbs and Bruma Lake, should ideally be a safe and healthy body of water that could, amongst other things, be used for neighbourly recreation.

The truth is that the system, which flows on from Bruma Lake through Alexander and on to Hartebeespoort Dam, is a river of filth that is safe for no-one. Worse still, it is one of the main sources of irrigation for 12 000 hectares of agricultural land in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and joins up with other river systems that cross over into Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana.

The Jukskei is highly polluted with both litter and a wide variety of contaminants, and the results of any routine testing that may be taking place (although this is unlikely to be happening) are not being made public. One of the most significant contaminants is raw sewage, which originates mainly from neglected and abandoned buildings in the city centre.

The Jukskei River Catchment Area Management Forum, which works in the Bruma Lake area, recently tested the E.coli level in the lake itself, and found this to be 2,4 million colony forming units (CFUs)/100ml. In the USA, the standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the recreational use of water resources is 125 CFU/100ml, and no sample should exceed 235 CFU/100ml (source: State of Indiana). Water in which levels are higher than these pose a very real threat to the community, especially in terms of water-borne diseases like cholera.

What is to be done?

Simply put, the community needs to get involved, and needs to work with the relevant government agencies to address this deeply concerning situation.
For our part, we've been privileged to be asked to participate in the WET-Africa (Waterway and Environment Transformation) initiative, a multi-party community-based programme that aims "to restore the critical and endangered rivers of Africa to health from source to sea".
WET-Africa has recently applied for an international grant to fund a major remediation, rehabilitation and community development project along the Jukskei River and, if funding comes through, we'll play a small part in making that happen. Local government, the Green Scorpions, residents' associations, community groups, taxpayers' unions, and interested and affected parties will all be invited to participate in the process, and to share in the knowledge resources that will be generated by the project.
We'll have a response to the funding proposal in early February, and we'll keep you informed of progress right here.
Image courtesy of WET-Africa: Solid waste in the Jukskei after a storm, 15 March 2009


Gaynor Paynter said...

Hi Lee,
One simple thing that could be done, which I feel would lessen litter being dumped into the rivers, which I myself am advocating, is that public dustbins be put up in Kensington. Kensington is the biggest suburb in Johannesburg yet there are no public dustbins. Both Germiston and Bedfordview have public dustbins, and they don't have the same amount of litter on their streets as Kensington does. I'm all for the return of the 'Zap It In the Zibi' campaign myself.

LC said...

Litter is certainly a big problem, and bins around the suburb and along the river should definitely be part of the solution. The WET-Africa model also allows for the development of strategically-placed recycling centres, and for consumer education on the issue of litter. Some support from the city would, of course help too ...

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