World Wetlands Day 2001: South Africa


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Celebration of World Wetlands Day in South Africa


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City of Cape Town

CMC- Administration

Catchment Management Department


World Wetlands Day Programme 2001

Report- February 2001

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Author: Randall Adriaans

City of Cape Town: CMC-Administration Catchment Management

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Report – World Wetlands Day 2001

1.0 Author's overview

The natural and cultural environments of the City of Cape Town are unique and the catchments, rivers, wetlands, vleis and bays contribute to Cape Town being one of the most sought after addresses and tourist destinations in South Africa. These natural treasures form part of the drainage system of the City of Cape Town and as the city becomes more and more urbanised and run-off and pollution potentials increase, the management of wetlands as part of the urban landscape demands attention.

World Wetlands Day is a special day in the year and presents an opportunity to highlight the importance of the conservation, holistic management and functioning of one of these elements of our natural heritage, our wetlands.

wwdsticker2e-sm.jpg (7565 bytes)Through the Catchment Forums, the Catchment Management Department co-ordinated a programme of several events including, policy workshops, student wetland walks, slide shows and drama on World Wetlands Day in 2000. A healthy partnership between Local Authorities, civil society and academic institutions was established and the programme in 2001 further honed and strengthened this partnership.

It must be stated at this juncture that the programme forms part of the overall awareness, education and communication strategy of the Department. As such, the programme seeks, not only to disseminate information and create awareness, but seeks also to strengthen and empower existing initiatives and initiate new programmes where appropriate, always cognisant of the role of education in integrated catchment management as a key element of the development of this city.

Through partnerships with community based and non-governmental organisations as well as support from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, six programmes were conducted across the Cape Metropolitan Area during the World Wetlands Day Programme 2001. The integration of these events conducted on the 2nd February with the existing educational programmes, capital projects and overall strategy of the Department bodes particularly well for the sustainability of future programmes and the success of integrated urban catchment management.

This annual programme goes a long way in promoting community ownership of our catchments and enhancing the interface between Local Authorities and communities. Perhaps this may best be summed up by an extract from one of the reports.

Partnerships leading to local awareness raising programmes around wetlands and other aspects of the environment are effective and should be encouraged and budgeted for. They are in the interests of the City, its inhabitants and the ecosystems, which underpin our lives.

Patrick Dowling – Wildlife and Environment Society, Western Cape.

2.0 An assimilation of the reports submitted by participating organisations

Reports submitted vary according to inherent capacity in terms of both human and physical resources and the nature of programmes that were undertaken by participating organisations. The limited budget put considerable constraints on programmes but the strength of the entire World Wetlands Day event was Council’s support for a "bottom-up" approach. As the programme is further honed, the interface between a "top-down" and "bottom-up" approach should be struck.

2.1 Rondevlei/Zeekoevlei programme

Sixty learners and two educators, Mr Hefte and Mrs Saunders of the Acacia and Plantation Primary Schools respectively, participated in the programme that highlighted the impact of urbanisation on the Lotus river system and the consequent impact on the major receiving bodies, Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei.

The emphasis of the programme was on wetland management and learners visited a range of wetlands under various management options. These included:

  • The Acacia Road Wetlands that are largely neglected and severely impacted through pollution, dumping, inappropriate development and poor environmental ethics
  • Zeekoevlei wetlands that are freely accessible to the public and managed as part of public open space
  • Rondevlei that is managed as part of a local area nature reserve.

The visits were accompanied by clean-ups, slide shows on the ecological functioning of wetlands, general role of wetlands in the improvement of urban run-off and water quality testing exercises.

2.2 Hout Bay Wetland Programme – from headwaters to estuary

Hout Bay River Catchment Forum members and Hout Bay Museum guides conducted a tour of the river system and the Hout Bay Wetlands for learners from the Oranjekloof Moravian, Sentinel and Kronendal Primary Schools.

The tour and presentations provided learners with a history of the river and the associated wetlands, information about the changing land use patterns and the impact on the wetlands, an assessment of the river rehabilitation programme and the effects on the estuary and most of all an opportunity to become actively involved in wetland management by removing invasive aliens and by designing posters of wetlands to be displayed at spaza shops, the library and their own classrooms.

Schools are invited to attend follow-up workshops and a teacher-training workshop is planned.

2.3 Noordhoek Wetlands – a system of interconnected wetlands

The impact of Wastewater treatment on the wetlands, artificial and natural wetlands, reed-beds, toxic algal blooms and the use of groundwater form part of the urban landscape in the Noordhoek Catchment. Five primary schools namely Ukhanyo, Kommetjie, Marine, Kleinberg and Imhoff’s Gift Waldorf participated and shared their experiences on a particularly eventful and exciting educational excursion around the wetlands in Noordhoek.

What was particularly pleasing in this programme was the fact that the guides had been trained in earlier wetland focussed training workshops. These guides in association with community organisations in the area have also developed a "home grown" wetland pamphlet for use in tourism initiatives. The training demonstrated the need for capacity building to ensure sustainability of programmes.

Partnerships leading to local awareness were seen as crucial by those organisations active in awareness raising in the Noordhoek valley.

2.4 The Wetlands of Khayelitsha

The Durbanville Environmental Forum (DEF) hosted a series of talks and a display in the community library. Members of the (DEF), the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the City of Cape Town supplied exhibition material.

Topics covered by the talks included matters on policy related to wetland management, the impact of public behavioural patterns on wetlands, upstream-downstream relationships in the Kuils River catchment and the impact on the Khayelitsha wetlands and matters that contributed to a general awareness and civic responsibility.

In addition to this programme, the Environmental Justice Networking Forum co-ordinated a series of activities that exposed their membership to:

  • The human impacts on wetlands particularly those in Khayelitsha
  • The initiatives, programmes and activities embarked upon by communities, local authorities and others that impact on wetlands and their management or conservation
  • Possible areas of joint collaboration and action between civil society and local authorities around wetland management

2.5 Edith Stephens Wetland Park programme-restoring a wetland with people in mind

This is a project supported by the City of Cape Town, National Botanical Institute, Working for Water and the World Wide Fund for Nature. .About 50 years ago academic botanist Edith Stephens purchased about 4 ha of seasonal wetland on the Cape Flats in one of the major drainage basins on the Cape Flats ,the Lotus River System, and placed it in the hands of the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

This World Wetlands day 2001 programme focussed on the conflict between conservation of natural ecosystems, the restoration of the wetland and the development of this area and adjacent land into a community park and conservation area. It was marked by an organised information and discussion session around the broader issues of wetland conservation and community development, and included an outing to Rondevlei wetland to view best wetland management practices.

The Working for Water Programme and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden assisted greatly in providing technical expertise and together with the participation of the community made this programme a most memorable one.

3.0 Conclusion

This programme, started in 1999 has mutated into one that is showing the fruits of trust, respect and empowerment. The true worth is the significant partnering relationship built between civil society and local authorities, the understanding of the impact of urbanisation on our wetlands and the will by stakeholders to get involved and DO!

4.0 List of participating organisations

The following organisations participated with the City of Cape Town in the programme.

  • Wildlife and Environment Society-Western Cape
  • Environmental Justice Networking Forum-Western Cape
  • Tsoga Environmental Centre
  • Durbanville Environmental Forum
  • Hout Bay Museum
  • Glenco Schools project
  • Edith Stephens Wetland Park
  • National Botanical Institute
  • World Wide Fund For Nature
  • Working For Water Programme (Dept of Water Affairs & Forestry)
  • Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Group
  • Burning Spear Movement
  • Phillipi Youth Forum

4.1 The following officials of the City of Cape Town contributed to the success of the programme.

  • Karen Patten & Sandy Hustwick- City of Cape Town Administration
  • Julia Wood- South Peninsula Administration
  • Ossie Asmal & Steyn Marais– City of Tygerberg Administration
  • Lindie Buirskie – CMC-Administration
  • Patt Titmuss – Blaauwberg Administration

Report compiled by programme manager:

Randall Adriaans
City of Cape Town – CMC: Administration
Catchment Management Department
Tel: 4872453 email:

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