Keeping Greenville ‘green’

Patrick Dowling of Wildlife And Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) inspects the Mosselbank River.

An initiative focused on the natural environment in the new Greenville Garden City was launched last week.

The Greenville Environmental Education (EE) Collaborative will address issues before the completion of the housing project, which is under construction in Fisantekraal by residential developer Garden Cities, in partnership with the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government.

Since its launch in March 2016, 462 houses have been handed over and occupied by new owners at Greenville (“Home, sweet home”, Northern News, March 24 2016).

A total of 868 Breaking New Ground (BNG) houses will be built in the first phase, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

The entire development will eventually accommodate 17 000 homes, with 12 primary and high schools, an integrated transport hub and community facilities.

With this in mind, a proactive approach has been taken to enhance and protect the natural environment in Greenville, said Andrew Bennett, an environmental sustainability facilitator and founding member of company Icologie.

The launch of the Greenville EE Collaborative took place on Friday July 7 with an information session at the Fisantekraal library hall, followed by a clean-up and monitoring of the Mosselbank River’s health through the Mini Stream Assessment Scoring System (miniSASS) with the Friends of the Liesbeek’s maintenance project team.

Mr Bennet said the collaborative sought to establish a network which would learn and work together and take action that both protects the natural environment and improves the lives of people.

“We have the opportunity to put plans in place from the start. In most situations, you only start with environmental education — after the fact. While there are people living in the area already, this is nothing compared to the thousands who will be moving in, in the years to come,” he said.

Mr Bennett said some of the objectives could be reached through establishing a community-based river maintenance team, urban food gardening, eco schools, bio-remediation ponds and stormwater harvesting.

Danielle Sterrenberg of Garden Cities presented the master landscape plan for the area which includes the rehabilitation of the Mosselbank River, removal of alien vegetation, planting of water wise plants, regular river clean-ups, setting up a small lemon orchard and installing a second sewerage connection to prevent any river run-off.

Ms Sterrenberg said this was to instil a sense of “community” and pride.

Conor Eastment of the Friends of the Liesbeek, said their community-based project started in the early 1990s when residents wanted to do something about the decay along the Liesbeek River.

Today they have a dedicated maintenance team of eight and partnerships with various organisations. He said he was excited about the Greenville initiative and the opportunity to check out a different river.

Mr Eastment said he was looking forward to partnering with the Greenville community.

A businessman whose farm borders the upper part of the river said they had tried various projects over the years with local organisations and schools but said they needed something sustainable.

“It is really sad to see the state of the river,” he said, but welcomed the initiative and pledged their support.

Greenville resident Elizabeth Maans said the event had been informative and believed that campaigns like this would make a difference in the area. But, she said, the community also needed to play its part.

Mr Bennett said the next step would be to establish opportunities for capacity building. He said this could be done through workshops to develop Greenville EE’s vision and strategy, learning from others, signing up for the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Clear Rivers campaign and formally presenting the landscape master plan to the community.

Mr Bennett said the results of the miniSASS had revealed that the river was heavily polluted, but he said there was still a chance to turn the situation around.

The development of the 767 hectares will have four main categories: BNG housing, social housing, gap housing and plots for bonded housing. The gap housing market comprises people who earn between R3 500 and R15 000 a month, which is too little to buy a house, yet too much to qualify for a state subsidy.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has launched a Clear Rivers campaign to celebrate Mandela month. The campaign aims to foster a caring attitude towards the protection of water resources in communities, especially now that much of the country has felt the effects of drought. Communities, businesses and civil society are called on to dedicate their time to cleaning rivers, wetlands and other water courses during Mandela month. This is linked to the call by the president in the State of the Nation Address of 2014 where he called on all South Africans, in the spirit of volunteerism, to dedicate 67 minutes to clean South Africa.