Estuary ‘at risk’ from litter

2017-12-19 06:01

Plastic, tyres, condoms, sanitary products, wrappers and bottles are just some of the refuse which is polluting the Zandvlei estuary.

A local has raised concerns over the refuse and the two litter traps between Marina da Gama and Military Road.

In a letter to the City of Cape Town, resident Mike Ryder says he has raised his concerns with the City over the last six months, after noticing refuse piling up in the estuary and surrounding ­canals.

“I was appalled and embarrassed at the amount of detritus floating and suspended in the water and washed up in the reeds and on the shores. Zandvlei is a ‘protected area’ and the Zandvlei Nature Reserve is located within this,” he says.

Ryder says the majority of the litter is washed into the estuary from canals, and the two litter traps which are supposed to stop refuse “are in a bad state of ­repair”.

“Quite frankly rubbish [is] pouring down the canal and out into the vlei with no persons or bodies seemingly showing the least bit of concern and certainly doing nothing to stop it,” he ­insists.

Bernelle Verster, Zandvlei Protected Areas Advisory Committee chairperson, says the Zandvlei estuary is at the bottom of the catchment and thus suffers the consequences of everything that happens higher up in the catchment – including litter, nutrients and sediment.

“Therefore the estuary does have a litter problem. In the context of the estuary, nutrient management and sediment build-up are more critical to the functioning of the estuary and thus should receive priority. Placing the context of the estuary in the drought and in the wider functioning of the City, it would be difficult to justify this as a priority for the City,” she says.

‘Every effort made’Eddie Andrews, Mayco member (South), confirms that the City received communication from Ryder in October.

He says the City is making every effort to remove the litter.

“Regular clean-up operations are being conducted in Zandvlei by nature reserve staff. Waste higher up in the catchment is the focus of the City’s Solid Waste Management and Catchment and Stormwater Management departments. The City’s Recreation and Parks Department also removes litter from public open spaces,” he says.

There are various sources for the waste, including littering and illegal dumping, which happens in wetlands and public open spaces across the City, Andrews says.

“We urge the public not to engage in illegal dumping. We also encourage the public to report any illegal dumping,” he says.

“The community must stop dumping their litter into the canals. This happens even when cleaning operations are in place. The acquisition of extra bins by property owners for their backyard dwellers will also alleviate the overflowing single bins per erf.

In addition, the nets and traps are continually being repaired, Verster says.

“The maintenance teams do the best they can before storms to take preventative actions, and then clean up after storms. In the dry periods, little maintenance is necessary.”

Vandalism to blameThere are two litter grids in place in the Sand River canal and the Langevlei canal to prevent litter from entering. There is also a litter net in Marina Da Gama that prevents material that bypasses the litter grids from entering the estuary, says Andrews.

“The litter traps are being cleaned before and after rainfall events and as and when required. The estuary is the responsibility of the Biodiversity Management Department, which in turn sends their team around the embankments for clean-ups. Members of the public are also involved with these clean-ups,” he says.

“The litter traps and bypass areas are regularly vandalised, which allows litter to flow into the estuary. We will keep up our regular clean-up efforts until the upgrading of the litter traps takes place early in the new year.”

Verster says the most effective intervention to prevent litter from entering the estuary is “upstream intervention”, to intercept the litter before it gets into the canals, and better service delivery to poorer communities.

The issue of litter coming down stormwater canals into the Zandvlei estuary is a common issue raised within the Protected Areas Advisory Committee, which comprises local communities and user groups, Andrews says.

“Suggestions are being explored through this committee for the design of more efficient litter traps, which the Catchment and Stormwater Management Department is investigating. This of course will treat the symptom and not the ongoing littering that takes place throughout the ­catchment.”

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