Project: Understanding water supply issues and looking for solutions to disposable nappies and other domestic waste in Ga-Mampuru, Greater Tubatse Municipality, by Kedibone Ntobeng, Christine Mothupi and Tshepo Sibaya.
Itumeleng Youth Project formed under the most tragic of circumstances. In Christine Mothupi’s words:
“When mining started, the population increased and the community started to grow. New sections were formed and water demand was now high while we only had one purification plant that supplied clean water. Everyone was looking for clean water from the water purification plant and then illegal connections started to occur. Some pipes started to leak, then water waste became high. The water purification plant stopped supplying the community with water because it couldn’t manage the whole village alone. The community started to look for a way to survive. Some people were forced to fetch water from the irrigation canal and some were fetching water from the Tubatse river which is too far away”.
Tshepo Sibaya continues the story:
“Since 1995 the community was drinking water from the canal which was built mainly for irrigation but due to lack of water nearby people were forced to drink that water. In 2009 one morning tragedy hit the community. People died after drinking water from the canal which they had been drinking from for many years. Thirteen people died while hundreds more were hospitalized. The health department said it was cholera. We are not sure if it was cholera or poison …After that incident the community were mobilized under one theme: This cannot happen again”.
Under huge pressure from the community, the Greater Tubatse municipality built storage dams and drilled boreholes, so that people were no longer forced to drink from the canal. However, there are currently insufficient taps and low water pressure, meaning that some sections get more water than others, leading to conflict between the sections. In two of the sections, people are once again relying on water from the canals and from the Tubatse River.
At the same time, the river that people are relying on is full of domestic waste. IYP has been investigating the reasons for this waste landing up in the river, with a particular focus on the huge number of disposable nappies in the landscape and in the river.
Kedibone Ntobeng describes the history of disposable nappies and other domestic waste in her community:
"In 1973 the Mampuru clan and the community members were forced to move from Brakfontain (Magagamatala) to Steelpoort (Boschkloof). At that time the population was less and they did not think about the future and how they are going to manage their domestic waste - at that time they did not have too much domestic waste. They were using traditional customs. It was the introduction of modern customs that caused more waste. For example, women were using cloth nappies for children and they were washing them… In the 90s mining started and the population began to increase and job opportunities became available for more people. Some people could now afford to buy those disposable nappies, but you still never ever saw disposable nappies on the street or in dongas… When disposable nappies decreased in price, many more people started to buy them. That’s when people started to realize that disposable nappies do not decay. Most parents decided to throw them far away from people. In 2006 the Lion smelter phase one started and the population increased again. People from different places came in. Business started to increase. A tavern and renting rooms were built while we still didn’t have a dumping site. The tavern started to stay open 24/7, and waste from bottles and cans increased in large numbers. Then waste started to be unmanageable as sections continued to develop and grow, and there was no space for people to dump. This is when people started to see the river banks as a dumping site and the river as a waste transporter.”
As part of their changing practice project, IYP has done a door to door awareness campaign and cleaning campaign. They have cleared disposable nappies from dongas and river banks, and requested the municipality to collect the nappies for removal to a landfill, but they have not yet had a response.
Itumeleng Youth Project is doing important and challenging work in a community that has suffered terribly as a result of a lack of safe secure water. The issue of disposable nappy waste is a critical one that many communities are grappling with around the country. Keep up the fantastic work IYP.