South Africa : City embarks on clean-up campaign at Alexandra's wetlands

By Nthambeleni Gabara

Johannesburg - A clean-up campaign is underway along the Jukskei River in Alexandra, as part of the city's ongoing efforts to care and protect its wetlands.

The clean-up campaign, forms part of activities planned for World Wetlands Day, which is annually celebrated in February on different days.

When BuaNews arrived at the wetland on Tuesday, a group of employees from the City's environmental department and learners from the Alexandra Skeem Primary School were busy removing waste materials.

The Jukskei River, which is one of the largest rivers in Johannesburg, is mostly shallow and often polluted. The banks are also prone to bursting, especially in summer when rainfalls are heavy.

Speaking to BuaNews on Tuesday, the City's Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC), Councillor Prema Naidoo said the campaign was an opportunity to inform and remind people how the wetlands benefit the surroundings.

He said one of the important functions of a wetland was to trap dirt and sand.

"This makes the water cleaner and healthier as well as stopping soil erosion," he said, adding that recently, the area experienced flooding.

"We are embarking on a clean-up campaign because we believe that healthy wetlands can slow the water and this will go a long way to ensure that our families and neighbours do not lose their houses or fall prey to floods," he said.

Mr Naidoo urged residents of the township to take care of and protect their environment.

"It is important that the cleaning of these wetlands should not only be done once in a year. We urge you to educate your family members to refrain from damaging and littering in your wetland," he said.

The City's Environmental Management Executive Director, Flora Mokgohloa told BuaNews that together with her team, they wanted to make a lasting impact in altering social behaviour with regards to littering, water care and the greening of the residential areas.

"We want our people to realise that water is life, that there is no substitute for water. We want to encourage people to make use of a dumping site provided by the city and stop throwing waste materials in streams and rivers," she said.

According to Ms Mokgohloa, the city decided to embark on the campaign in Alexandra because the area was overcrowded and very polluted.

"We also believe that when residents return from their respective work place, they will notice the difference and realise the importance of taking care of their wetland," she said.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year to mark the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

The theme for World Wetlands Day 2009 is "We All Live Downstream" which draws attention to the need for good management of river systems.

This ensures that all users of the water resources can continue to benefit from the goods and services that they provide.

The slogan for 2009 is "Upstream - Downstream", designed around the theme of wetlands and river basins and the role that wetlands play in surrounding environments.

In Limpopo, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated on Wednesday at the GaMolepo village. - BuaNews