CAPE TOWN: Water activists in rural and urban areas can learn from one another in spite of their geographic differences, since they face many similar challenges particularly when dealing with municipalities on water service delivery issues.
Reporting on the outcome on the Western Cape Water Caucus (WCWC) quarterly meeting, regional coordinator Thabo Lusithi said the August 15 gathering was an important opportunity for rural and urban water activists in the province to share knowledge and build stronger relationships ahead of the national South African Civil Society Water Caucus meeting scheduled for this September.
‘For instance, we heard from a group of women from Bonnievale, who used their own initiative to start cleaning up a river close to their community because people had been attacked there. They did this without the help of their municipality or the Department of Water Affairs,’ says Lusithi.
With training from the Breede-Overberg Catchment Management Agency (BOCMA), they learned how to clean the river of litter since a lot of household waste had also been dumped into the river.
‘They cleared it of mattresses, old furniture, plastic, glass, all sorts of household rubbish,’ explains Lusithi, ‘and they did all of this without any safety gear.’
This month, the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) will recognise the Bonnievale women’s efforts at the annual Women in Water Awards, where they will receive a sum of money which the women have already decided they will use to buy safety gear and to pay for transport so that they can get to training opportunities.
The WCWC meeting allowed for important knowledge sharing with another group of women who have also mobilised their community to get involved with a similar clean- up – but this time around an urban wetland in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, in Cape Town.
The Makhaza Wetland and Food Growers also reported back on their progress following the water services dialogues held between their community and the Khayelitsha municipality in 2012. One of the main issues to surface in the dialogues was the matter of leaking water infrastructure and the resulting high debt within the community.
‘Now we’re hearing that the City of Cape Town is willing to fix leaks and possibly reduce some of the households’ bills. We’re not sure if this is happening as a result of the dialogues or not, but it is a positive step.’
Following the WCWC meeting, the provincial chapter will send four representatives – two rural, two urban – to St Lucia on the northern KwaZulu Natal coast this September in order to represent the region’s issues at the national Water Caucus’ biannual general meeting.
Lusithi also represents Cape Town-based organisation, the Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG), which has been part of the SA Water Caucus for five years.
The SA Water Caucus is a network of civil society and non-governmental organisations, and trade unions, which was launched after the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. It provides a space in which activists can discuss issues of water service delivery, forestry and dam building, water quality, air pollution and concerns around the privatisation of water services.
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See also: The South African Civil Society Water Caucus