Howick: District manager launches project to revive park’s life-supporting stream

2009-04-20 00:00

HOWICK — The health of the natural environment is not just the pastime of the white, the rich and the educated as is often portrayed in the media, said the municipal manager of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Sbu Khuzwayo.

Joking that he spoke “at the risk of losing my job”, he said: “For too long, the district municipality has not fully played its role as a water services authority; for too long it has abdicated its responsibility of ensuring a clean environment for the citizens in its area of jurisdiction.”

Khuzwayo was speaking on Saturday at the launch of the Symmonds Park stream rehabilitation project in Howick.

This is an initiative by Howick residents and the Howick branch of Duct (the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust).

He said it was “opportune” to launch the project at a time when the ecosystem is under threat from a population explosion, unplanned economic growth, political neglect and social apathy.

These multiple threats are largely reflected in the state of rivers, “which leaves a lot to be desired”.

Rivers function as life-support systems for living organisms, including humans, he said, adding that ironically, humans are threatening their well-being.

The district municipality has a legal and moral obligation to respond to the multiple threats posed to the environment by raw sewage spilling into rivers, illegal dumping, alien species and sand mining, he believes.

Khuzwayo said the district municipality has a duty to elevate the issues of water, sanitation and environmental health, which are enshrined in the Constitution, “on to the radar screens of all politicians so that Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille and Julius Malema can begin to articulate and pronounce on these issues”.

He commented that most political parties’ election manifestoes look “more or less the same”, featuring issues around job creation, economic growth, education, health and rural development.

By contrast, environmental health and the strained ecosystem are “conspicuous by their absence in the social and socio-political discourse … We therefore have a legal, moral and civic duty to conscientise our communities about the global effect of unplanned social and economic growth.

Global warming is but one of the global impacts of this critical matter. Environmental degradation as epitomised by our polluted rivers seeks to nullify the gains of social and technological advancement of the past century.”

Khuzwayo said the district has prioritised water conservation and demand management. On the supply side, it needs to improve maintenance and management of infrastructure in order to reduce its “scandalous” levels of water loss through leakage.

It also needs to work with other state organs to support water conservation initiatives.

“On the demand side, we need to educate communities about the value of water efficiency and general environmental health,” he said.

The environmental challenges involved are such that the government cannot face them alone. What is needed is a partnership between government, civil society and business.

“We would like to partner with similar-minded individuals to spread this gospel of environmental health. This district is endowed with many natural features. We have a civic duty to preserve this natural heritage for the generations to come,” Khuzwayo concluded.

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