Sewage has been flowing into the Zeekoevlei from a burst pipe on the eastern shore since Thursday last week. Picture: Supplied
Sewage has been flowing into the Zeekoevlei from a burst pipe on the eastern shore since Thursday last week. Picture: Supplied

Call for national minister to intervene in wetlands pollution

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Jul 9, 2021

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Cape Town - Following the closure of the third recreational wetland, Zeekoevlei due to sewage spills, Good Party national policy officer Mark Rountree has written to the Minister of Water and Sanitation and Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, requesting the protection of the communities and their wetlands.

Rountree said Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell had been slow to act against mayor Dan Plato. He said despite the responsibilities their positions carried, Bredell and Plato were reluctant to make real the environmental protection that the democratic legislation provided.

“The laws protecting rivers and wetlands in South Africa are good and generally more advanced than the rest of the world, but laws only work if they are enforced. It is disappointing that Plato and Bredell seem unable or unwilling to embrace their responsibility to protect communities and the environment.

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“For more than two years, the wetlands around Milnerton have been subjected to ongoing sewage releases, causing very high levels of pollution of the sensitive watercourses and the Diep River Estuary,” said Rountree.

He said this pollution was illegal in terms of national legislation and a contravention of the international Ramsar wetland agreements.

Meanwhile, authors of the Save the Zandvlei petition who renewed their calls said the vlei’s six-week closure was an indication of the serious problems it was facing from sewage spills and other sources of pollution, and a vindication of their petition.

Co- author Charles Whaley said the City, in its response, did not address the question of the rubble weir and the system currently in use to open and close the mouth of the vlei.

“No one is asking for the rubble weir to be removed, but rather that it should be upgraded and modernised. It requires an adjustable electronic weir system that can more effectively control the level of the vlei and the in- and out-flow of seawater,” said Whaley.

The City said the main cause of the overflow in Zeekoevlei was not yet clear and that further investigations were planned to identify the extent to which new and undiscovered points of stormwater ingress and its infiltration into sewers in the catchment were playing a role.

Mayoral member for water and sanitation Xanthea Limberg said the City intended to engage with concerned interest groups and stakeholders.

“The City sincerely regrets the current situation but would like to highlight this as an example of the impact of using sewers illegally. Sewers should only be used to dispose of human waste, toilet paper and grey water,” she said.

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