Protect Cape Flats aquifer, says campaigner

2017-03-23 22:59
Philippi Horticultural Area campaigner Nazeer Sonday. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Philippi Horticultural Area campaigner Nazeer Sonday. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Some water-saving tips on World Water Day

2017-03-22 17:25

22 March is #WorldWaterDay - a day set aside to promote the conservation of water in an era of usable water shortages, particularly in many African countries.WATCH

Cape Town - The Cape Flats, usually associated with gangs and apartheid-era people dumping, has a secret weapon against drought - an aquifer in Philippi that has been watering the city's vegetables for more than 200 years.

But if developers eventually have their way and build middle-income houses on the beachy terrain, the underground treasure will be lost forever, with catastrophic consequences for the metropole's future supplies of fresh food.

Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) campaigner and urban farmer Nazeer Sonday, said the recent decision by Heritage Western Cape to turn down an application by U-Vest Properties to develop houses there was a reprieve for the thousands of farmers who work the 3 000 hectares on the outskirts of the city every day.

But if the City of Cape Town did not move to actively protect the underground supply of water, all would be lost for generations to come, Sonday said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the global Water Justice Conference at St George's Cathedral in the city, he explained that the farms grew vegetables for city shops, informal traders and locals, supplying a high percentage of the daily needs of the city's residents.

Instead of spending money on desalination equipment, which the City is considering during the current drought, Sonday believes it should be focusing on protecting the recharge zone of the aquifer's catchment area from pollution and development.

'Water costs are low because of the aquifer'

Currently, the farmers are in the enviable position of being able to continue watering their crops by mechanically drawing water from the aquifer, unlike farmers who rely on the current heavily- rationed piped supplies.

According to the City of Cape Town, by March 20, dam levels for the Western Cape dropped to 28.6%. Even if the rains started soon, it would take a long time to make up the losses incurred during the drought.

Sonday said that if a housing developer eventually got the go-ahead to build over the PHA, storm water would be diverted and wasted, instead of refilling the aquifer.

"We are the only production area in the country that is completely drought-proof," he said.

Father and son team Michael and Reece Julie explained that the underground water source was a lifesaver and deserved to be protected.

"The beauty of this area is that I don't know of any other agricultural land so close to the city. Transport costs are low, and water costs are low because of the aquifer."

Sonday is expected to address the conference, which is being webcast to participating churches globally, on Friday.

Read more on:    cape town  |  drought  |  water crisis  |  water

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