Cycling across Africa to create awareness about water scarcity

2012-10-05 00:00

ONCE a month 20 schools in the Netherlands hear all about how people use water sparingly in Africa.

Telling them over Skype are Dutch teacher Erik Alblas (33) and trainee teacher Annemieke Plat (28), who cycled from Port Edward to Scottburgh yesterday on their experience-gathering cycling odyssey, from Cape Town to the Netherlands.

“When you combine the issue of water scarcity with our exciting trip, you get their attention,” Alblas told The Witness while passing Umtentweni. Their nation has the opposite problem, with frequent rain and rising sea levels, which the Netherlands have remedied over the years with dykes and windmills.

But they nonetheless need education on water scarcity, said the cyclists.

“Factories save money by wasting water, making cheap products,” remarked Plat.

She said people often do not take the “water footprint” into consideration.

In the Western and Eastern Cape they have visited dry sanitation projects, one in a township, the other in an informal settlement.

“We were impressed by the way people manage in the conditions in which they have to live, sometimes without water or sanitation,” said Alblas.

The gap between rich and poor in South Africa has also astonished the Dutch overlanders.

“In the richer areas, in the Eastern and Western Cape, there were signs everywhere warning people about water scarcity,” said Alblas.

“People told us they could be fined for watering their garden or washing their car and rather re-used water from the washing machine.

“Dutch children can learn from this.”

After KwaZulu-Natal, they plan to work their way up the eastern part of Africa, calling in at a school in Kenya for which they are raising funds to install a rainwater harvesting system.

They’ve noticed many rainwater tanks in rural South Africa.

“Locals tell us they have them, they just need the rain to fill them,” said Alblas.

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