Paolo Candotti - eThekwini Conservancies Forum
The goal of the project is to change behavior such that ultimately the residents take co-responsibility with the designated authorities for river health which included stopping litter
Conservancies in Durban have for over 20 years collected plastic that ends up on the beaches and in particular at Blue Lagoon. In 2016 the eThekwini Conservancies Forum - ECF (a collective of all the registered conservancies in eThekwini) said "enough is enough - we cannot keep doing this after every heavy rain! We need to find another solution!". The ECF then formed the Aller River Pilot Project aimed at testing solutions aimed at changing behaviour of residents living in one catchment of the Umgeni River system. The goal of the project is to change behaviour such that ultimately the residents take co-responsibility with the designated authorities for river health which included stopping litter (plastic, nappies etc.) from entering the river system and ending up at Blue Lagoon.
The project appointed a small team of previously unemployed youth in Clermont and trained them as community facilitators and environmental ambassadors.
The ARPP has provided an example to inspire and seed improvements in other river rehabilitation projects. It does this through generating, providing or demonstrating:
- Environmental benefits that include reduced direct pollution (especially from litter, raw sewage and disposable nappies), apparently reduced nappy-related sewer pillages, resulting in ecosystem and biodiversity benefits;
- Direct ecosystem restoration through clearing alien invasive plants and planting selected endemic indigenous plants.
- Holistic, systemic, and transformative thinking and design;
- Facilitating multi-actor participation and collaboration;
- Capacity development of eco-champs that includes accredited and non-accredited training and mentoring;
- Livelihood benefits through the employment of the eco-champs, the installation of rainwater harvesting infrastructure and water-efficient keyhole gardens at 5 schools.
- Psycho-social benefits including increased dignity of residents, disposable nappy users, and Community Ablution Block Care Takers, through having reduced health risks from polluted living and work conditions, and greater amenity or pleasure from cleaner and naturally restored spaces; and
The project facilitated collaboration between the eThekwini Municipality Water and Sanitation Department, Durban Solid Waste, and the community, with support from the global ‘non-wovens’ industry body EDANA (based in Brussels, Belgium). A practical temporary storage system for nappies was developed at 16 Community Ablution Blocks and 3 creches. In the 3-month pilot that ran from August to October 2018, over 21,000 used disposable nappies, weighing 3,5 tons, that would otherwise have landed mostly in the river, open spaces and toilet and sewer systems were safely redirected to landfill. This pilot phase is currently being expanded to include two neighbouring catchments one in KwaShembe and one on the Palmiet River at the Quarry Road West Informal Settlement. The aim of this pilot extension is to determine if the lessons learned in the earlier phase can be scaled up.
The project is currently also working to find solutions to all solid waste and is conducting focus group sessions, community events and workshops to collectively identify and implement solutions all of which will reduce the solid waste pollution which is currently entering the river system and ultimately into the Indian Ocean.