Wetlands road a win-win

2018-07-24 06:00

I would like to correct the inaccuracies in the letter by Glenn Ashton on the Houmoed Avenue Extension (“Wetlands under stress”, People’s Post, 10 July).

If approved, the extension would alleviate traffic flows in one of the worst congested areas of the City by providing additional road capacity. In 2013, the Kommetjie area was identified as one of three congested areas that were experiencing peak road traffic periods in excess of two hours.

The new roads realised through the dualling of portions of Kommetjie Road and Ou Kaapseweg as well as the extension of Houmoed Avenue will not only alleviate traffic, but Houmoed Avenue specifically will also afford the City easier access to improve community policing, maintain stormwater flows, bring in solid waste collection and install sewerage services as Mr Ashton correctly notes are desperately needed.

At present there is no access to this part of the settlement to allow for the introduction of such services. More effective stormwater and sewerage infrastructure would prevent polluted solid waste material from entering the wetlands, realising an overall improvement in the condition of these nutrient-sensitive wetlands.

It is true that a part of the road would intrude upon a small part of the wetland and old excavated ponds towards the eastern side of the road. The City is working with a variety of independent expert wetland specialists to mitigate and, where necessary, offset, any impacts by undertaking rehabilitation of nearby wetlands. These studies are underway as part of the environmental authorisation process (per the Department of Environmental Affairs and Planning) and water use licence application process (per the Department of Water and Sanitation). These processes include public participation and regular community liaison meetings. Only if these approvals, subject to the relevant processes and public participation, are granted could the City undertake the actual construction.

The issue of the inadvertent canal excavations in the lower section of the wetlands adjacent to Masiphumelele is very regretful. A contractor, in his efforts to improve the conditions in the low-lying sections of the informal settlement, had in October 2017 dug channels across the entire wetland to help improve flow and lower the floodlines in the settlement. These extensive excavations were not sanctioned by the City nor its staff. As soon as my office was made aware of this, we immediately took steps, working with the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) to implement remedial action. This corrective remedial action, approved by the DWS as the custodian of the country’s rivers and wetlands, was implemented by the wayward contractor at no cost to the City or ratepayers.

Mr Ashton is also incorrect in stating that the proposal to declare the City a Ramsar City speaks to a “false narrative”. In 2017 Council approved a proposal to apply for Ramsar City status, a new category for progressive cities like ours. Cape Town’s application is currently with the National Department of Environmental Affairs for the minister’s consideration. Mr Ashton is welcome to peruse the Ramsar information related to this category where he will discover that such a submission is neither “absurd” nor “impossible”.

The City’s Kadar Asmal programme, an expanded public works project that creates jobs and cleans our rivers and wetlands, has been recognised both nationally and internationally as a flagship win-win opportunity for people and the environment. This project exemplifies the City’s commitment to improving the lives and environment of our City and its residents.

Brett Herron Mayco member for transport and urban development

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