Peninsula Paddle shows that city waterways are ailing

20 Jul 2016 - 10:30

In 2010, water hyacinth made it almost impossible to traverse the Black River.  Now, however, Dr Kevin Winter and his student paddlers are able to navigate the river thanks to upgrades of the Athlone Wastewater Treatment Works.  This has improved the quality of water being discharged into the river.  The city's ongoing Kader Asmal Project has also played a big part, ensuring that solid waste filtering into the river is managed.

But the latest Peninsula Paddle shows that our waterways are ailing, says Dr Winter.

Students join the paddling at various stages along the 15 kilometres of waterways from Muizenberg to Milnerton.  The journey raises critical issues about spatial divisions in housing, service disparities, density of living spaces, and the capacity of citizens to manage and maintain the environment, as is seen in the condition of the city's waterways.

  Photos by Gavin Lawson

Paddlers gathered for the final leg of the journey up the Milnerton lagoon.  Despite efforts to clear tons of discarded material from the Salt River each month, the Kader Asmal Project team is overwhelmed by the volume.  The clean-up operation is unsustainable, says Dr Winter.  "Piles of plastic at the mouth are a sign of collective public failure.  The near shoreline and Table Bay are the new landfills.  We were confronted by the sheer ugliness of parts of these waterways, disappointed by a system that is failing badly.  The health of the city is seen in its waterways.  It is not looking good."