Celebrating Liesbeek River

2018-10-04 13:42
Photo: Supplied

Photo: Supplied

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The Liesbeek River was named by Jan van Riebeek and refers to the reeds or lies that he saw growing in the river,” said Phil McLean, chairperson of the Friends of Liesbeek River and invasive species specialist.

He was sharing the history of the Liesbeek River as part of World River Celebration Day.

The organisation held a walk along the river to which they invited members of the public to educate them about the river and expose them to its beauty.

“This kind of joint community-body involvement is exactly the kind of coming together that is needed to highlight responses like the river. Rivers are such fundamental parts of any environment, but are especially important in urban environments. Most people in the world now live in urban settings, so this kind of nature will be the only nature that many people are exposed to for their entire lives.”

The river begins just below Kirstenbosch in the Boschenheuwel Arboretum where the Window and Protea tributary streams come together and flows through the southern suburbs of Cape Town until it joins the Black River in Observatory where the two become the Salt River.

For the past 30 years it has been under the sharp eye of the Friends of the Liesbeek (FoL), an environmental organisation that performs many civic services in respect of the river.

Run purely by the volunteer committee members, the FoL is committed to removing litter on at least a weekly basis and clearing invasive alien vegetation along the banks, assisted by eight permanent staff members.

“We have secured sufficient donations to enable us to employ a team of eight staff at the moment who work full time on the river to help improve the ecology and make it a space that the public can enjoy interacting with. It is critically important that we understand and value these systems so that we can look after them and prevent them becoming our dumping grounds.”

Organiser Belisa Rodrigues, ward 57 representative for Mowbray and a member of the Rosebank and Mowbray Civic Association (RMCA), adds that World Rivers Day is more than a commemoration of “most precious” local water resources. She says more than its environmental value, the Liesbeek River has deep historical and cultural significance for many communities in the Cape.

“Heritage experts agree that the Liesbeek River itself is worthy of declaration as a Grade II Provincial Heritage Site along with the remaining open land at the confluence of the rivers and wetland areas. If we don’t recognise and value our sacred Liesbeek River, we will lose the intangible and tangible benefits of memory, healing and life itself.”

Kevin Winter, a local, says the walk was a good idea as it got people out and provided an opportunity for people to talk about the river and share ideas.

“This is helping people to become more interested in the river and connecting with nature in the city. Urban rivers have been neglected.”

Winter has been involved with the river for many years and says the Liesbeek has become a far more liveable urban waterway which offers a public walkway. He says in recent years work on the river has focused on making the river more liveable for non-human species such as plants and animals. Water and vegetation help to cool down the city.

“In the long term, Cape Town is going to get drier and warmer. Long-term climate models for the Western Cape confirm that the climate is changing in this way,” says Winter.

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