EMG water and climate change seminar series, 2014
Our popular seminar series is still going strong, and is a vibrant space to share what we're learning, hear different perspectives, and strategise with others from civil society, academia, government and communities around the best ways to respond to water and climate change issues.
In 2014, our first seminar was a small gathering focussed on Gender and Water, a theme that most people agree is important and yet which is poorly understood, by ourselves and most others we meet in the sector. Leila Harris from the University of British Columbia was our guest speaker; she presented case studies to illustrate the gendered impacts of various large scale water and development projects, and shared some helpful, nuanced methodologies we can use to explore gender in our work.
In May, EMG supported the Kuils River Catchment Forum to host a seminar, which brought together voluntary citizen's groups actively involved with cleaning the Kuils River, officials from local government, DWS (Department of Water and Sanitation), and academics from CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology). This seminar was an opportunity to share all the work that has been done by the forum to date, to hear from government officials about the state of the river and wetlands, and government's vision and challenges for this catchment. Finally, we started a process of exploring how to get this loose, fairly informal forum registered and recognised as an official Catchment Management Forum (CMF). Proceedings from this seminar are available here.
In June we co-hosted a seminar with the Phillippi Horticultural Area (PHA) for Food and Farming, looking at the relationship between the Cape Flats Aquifer (CFA) and the PHA. This seminar attracted a large number of concerned citizens, government officials and academics, and proved to be a fascinating gathering with important outcomes. The main messages coming out of the seminar were that the CFA and the PHA are both critically important for food security in Cape Town; that the CFA is in urgent need of a proper management plan to prevent its further pollution; but that its pollution levels at present are not high enough to result in dangerous toxicity levels in vegetables grown in the PHA. We hope that this relationship between EMG and the PHA for Food and Farming will continue into the future. The press release from this seminar is available here.
Finally, our November seminar looked at Water and Wetland Offsets, a growing trend in South Africa and around the world. Water and Wetland Offsets are still very poorly defined. Although carbon offsets and biodiversity offsets have been implemented and researched fairly thoroughly, water and wetland offsets are a fairly new concept, with very different variables, considerations and implications. This seminar was an attempt to open up a conversation about what is really understood and intended by those who are pursuing these kinds of mechanisms, and to start to formulate our own opinions and responses - should we be worried, should we be resisting these trends outright, or is there a pragmatic middle ground? Watch this space for a report coming out of this seminar - and you will hear more from us on this topic next year, as we prepare to respond to DEA's proposed environmental offset policy.
Social audit of the Kuils River - the story of an urban river
The Kuils River Catchment Management Forum is a loose yet thriving network of people who meet regularly to talk about the protection and rehabilitation of the Kuils River, with a particular focus on the area around the Khayelitsha Wetland Park. Earlier this year we commissioned researcher Liane Greeff to conduct a preliminary social audit of the Kuils River, looking at the state of the river, who is using it, and what different people's perceptions are about the river. You can find the report here: Kuils River Social Audit
Civil society guide to the NWRS2
South Africa’s second National Water Resources Strategy is a potentially powerful document, laying out the strategic direction for water resource management in this country for the next 20 years. However, most people do not know it exists, or if they do, it remains very abstract and inaccessible. The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) submitted extensive comments, some of which we were happy to see reflected in the final version published in June 2013, but many of which were ignored. Despite our reservations about aspects of the strategy, we also see opportunities, on paper at least, for civil society to play a meaningful role in monitoring the implementation of this strategy. As a first step, EMG has developed this civil society guide to the NWRS2, which presents the SAWC comments and positions, highlights our particular areas of concern, and identifies ways in which civil society can use the NWRS2 to support and enhance our work. We hope it is useful, and we encourage you to share it and use it as you see fit – and please let us know if you have any comments or ideas to share.
You can access the guide here: Civil society guide to the NWRS2
South African Water Caucus comments on the National Water Policy Review, October 2013
Access the comments by the SAWC on the Department of Water Affairs draft National Water Policy Review (notice 888 of 2013) here: SAWC comments on the NWPR
Proceedings from EMG seminar on 'Unpacking the language of climate change', October 2013
Adaptation, mitigation, vulnerability, resilience, adaptive capacity, anticipatory capacity... the conceptual language of climate change is a mouthful, and is quite alienating and inaccesible for most people. At the same time, people are already 'adapting' or 'building their resilience' or 'becoming more vulnerable' - they just don't use those words to describe their experiences. In October, a group of us got together to try and get a better understanding of this language, and to relate it to practical lived realities. The proceedings from this interesting discussion are available here.
We have had a number of articles related to our work published recently.
An article by Jessica Wilson about the inequitable water tariffs in Cape Town, which appeared in the Mail and Guardian on the 24th of May - view HERE
- An article highlighting the work that Makhaza residents, in partnership with EMG and CEJ, have been doing to get leaks fixed and debt scrapped, without the installation of the City's dreaded water management devices, published by the Inter-Press Service - view HERE
- Our work in Makhaza was also featured in the Good Governance Learning Network newsletter for May 2013 - view HERE
EMG comments on City of Cape Town's proposed water tariff increases
Read HERE about the inequitable water tariffs in Cape Town, and for more analysis see Jessica's article in the Mail and Guardian, above.
Proceedings from EMG seminar on the NWRS 2, March 2013
In March 2013 we hosted a vibrant seminar looking at lessons learnt from civil society engagement with the second National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS2). Importantly, we also considered how we as civil society can monitor the progress and appropriateness of such a policy throughout its implementation. Read the full proceedings HERE.
Video - Leaks, Debt and Devices: a community seeks alternatives
Watch this beautifully filmed video about a group of women in Makhaza who, in partnership with EMG and CEJ, are looking for positive, empowering alternatives for addressing leaks and debt where they live. Watch the video HERE.