Nelson Mandela Bay's anti-pollution plan gets flak

No swimming signs have been erected along the Chatty River
No swimming signs have been erected along the Chatty River

How does the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality plan to tackle the problem of polluted rivers in the city?

Through awareness campaigns and education drives, starting with the Chatty River, it reported at a public health committee meeting on Monday.

But councillors who serve on the committee were not buying into it, saying it showed a lack of urgency from the municipality’s side in actually dealing with the source problem that has spanned years.

The city announced it had  earmarked the Chatty River as the pilot site for its polluted rivers health project.

The “love where you live” project is aimed at creating awareness among communities about polluted rivers and reducing community-based river pollution.

A report tabled before the public health committee states that the possible source of pollution was as a result of residents in informal areas dumping their sewage buckets into the rivers.

Giving clarity on the report, public health acting executive director Dr Patrick Nodwele said “No Swimming” warning boards along the polluted rivers had been erected.

Nodwele said his portfolio was now monitoring the rivers that run through the metro, and checking the quality of the water and sources of pollution.

“Public health [department] was raising awareness on polluted rivers and more on educating communities on the do’s and don’ts and what to avoid,” Nodwele said.

“[We] were not intending to take over the engineering function,” he said.

For years, the municipality’s public health and infrastructure departments were at loggerheads over which department was responsible for ensuring the city’s rivers are not polluted.

The public health department has maintained it was merely responsible for testing the rivers, and that it was ultimately up to the infrastructure and engineering department to ensure sewage does not seep into the rivers.

ANC councillor Kholekile Boqwana said if the pilot project was merely a campaign it meant the city was not dealing with the problems of pollution.

“We have to have a project that talks to the entire problem that relates to the identified river,” Boqwana said.

“We must have a proper direct plan that addresses the entire project, which would mean beautification of the areas, putting up benches and clean water.

“The campaign must be clear and must have details on how to address the problems within the river.”

DA councillor Francois Greyling said he was concerned because the matter of polluted rivers was not being regarded as urgent and that very little progress seemed to have been since the last meeting.

“This is a grand idea but since October last year, we’ve been making this plan and now we should have actually had a progress report of that plan.

“And now we are in March 2020.

“At the next meeting, can there please be a breakdown of the costs, how the rest of the plan can be rolled out and how it can work.

“But we need a detailed, concrete plan,” Greyling said.

Councillor Lance Grootboom questioned the name and purpose of the project, and said he was receiving complaints from clinics that there were many cases of illnesses related to the polluted rivers.

“Especially young children who have to cross these rivers just to get to school — what are we doing?” Grootboom said.

“It is nice to say ‘love where you live’ but you actually hate it because conditions there do not make it easy to love — or are we just fooling each other with a nice name?” he said.

ANC councillor Mazwangwandile Dano said the public health department’s responsibility was not infrastructure, but to educate communities on applying safe and preventive measures, and that creating awareness was not a crime.

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