The Take Back Our Rivers initiative is a flagship project of the eThekwini Conservancies Forum (managed through the Kloof Conservancy) that seeks to restore the river health of rivers across eThekwini Municipality, through a process of hands-on river assessments, rehabilitation interventions and various restoration strategies including clearing of invasive alien species and mobilising the communities. The approach that this initiative takes is partnership-based, practical and action orientated, with a particular focus on engaging communities from various economic backgrounds with the intention of encouraging these communities to take co-responsibility with the designated authorities for the health of the stretch of river that they live on and/or use.
The Aller River Project
One of TBOR’s sub-projects, the Aller River Pilot Project designed by the eThekwini Conservancies Forum (with the Kloof Conservancy as the implementing agency), received a generous grant of R600 000 from the eThekwini Municipality, as part of its commitment to Climate Change mitigation and responsible natural resource management. Phase 1 of this pilot project got off the ground in June 2016 and ran to end March 2017. The aim of the pilot project is to test the methodology upon which the TBOR is built, particularly that aspect concerned with building capacity and custodianship amongst “river communities”, as this will ultimately support the sustainability of the intervention.
You can view a video on the Phase 1 of this project on YouTube
In March 2017 eThekwini Conservancies Forum announced that it would be collaborating with a team of researchers from Education and Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge to extend and enhance the community engagement element of the project on the Aller River. Further funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK enabled the project to consolidate the work done in Phase 1 and created links and partnerships with other water-based communities in the Norfolk Broads in East Anglia in the UK. This phase 2 of the project ended in January 2018.
In February 2018 the Aller River Project continued into Phase 3 with funding provided by the National Lotteries Commission. This enabled the project to further develop and deepen its involvement in finding local solutions. Phase 3 was completed at the end of January 2018
The most significant development on the project for 2018 was the progress made by the Disposable Nappies Sub-project. The irresponsible dumping of disposable nappies in toilets, open land and in the river was identified as a major environmental problem early in Phase 1 of the project. The sub-project has grown from the initial desk-top study done by Dr Craig Widdows to now being officially accepted as a Pilot Project of the National Absorbent Health Products Waste Task Team run by the National Department of Environmental Affairs.
In early 2018 the global organisation representing the Non-woven industry, EDANA (representing global manufacturers such as Kimberley Clark and Proctor and Gamble) agreed to fund a sub project to remove disposable nappies from the environment in a defined area in Clermont as agreed to with Durban Solid Waste (a department of the eThekwini Municipality)
During the three months of the trial over 21 272 disposable nappies (3,5t) were safely diverted to landfill. At the same time the incidence of sewer manhole surcharges in the pilot area reduced significantly.
The project also attracted the attention of UPM Raflatac a global supplier of pressure sensitive label materials with a local presence who agreed to fund the use of Participatory Video techniques on the Disposable Nappies Project. The Eco-champs produced a 7 minute video summarising the nappies sub-project and this is available on YouTube
Phase 4 of project ran on a reduced budget and focused exclusively on solid waste and disposable nappies in particular. Funding was provided by EDANA for the nappies sub-project which involved testing the scalability of the pilot which ran in 2018. The project was expanded from 16 Community Ablution Blocks (CABs) to 44 and also involved an expansion into two other catchments, the Mvuzana River catchment in the Kwa-Shembe area of Clermont (24 CABs) and the Palmiet River catchment at the Quarry Road West Informal Settlement (QRWIS) where 4 CABs will be involved. Phase 4 of project was completed at the end of March 2020 at which point the Municipality undertook to take the model and expand it further to other parts of the city.
Unfortunately the Covid 19 pandemic has upset all the plans and the expansion of the project by the city has not been progressed.
The Take-Back-Our-Rivers team is still engaging with key role players to identify additional ideas to address the problem of river health in eThekwini – more updates will be provided when details are available.
A short (7minute) video on the Disposable Nappies sub-project is available on YouTube by clicking HERE
M&G Greening Award
The 2018 Mail and Guardian’s Greening Awards were announced recently and we are pleased that the Aller River Pilot Project was the winner in the category: Community Conservation and Resilience.
The Aller River Project is run under the banner of the eThekwini Conservancies Forum with the Kloof Conservancy as the implementing and contracting agency.
You can read the details of the awards and citation by clicking HERE.
The Aller River Project was awarded two awards at Enviropaedias’ Eco-logic Awards in Cape Town on 5 June 2019.
Eco Logic Awards
The project was awarded Silver in the BioDiversity Category and Gold in the Municipality Category.
The team was fortunate to meet Barbara Creecy the Minister for Environment Fisheries and Forestry at the event and to chat to her about the project and what it hopes to achieve
The citation for the awards was as follows:
“The Aller River Pilot Project (ARPP) sets out to support and inspire ‘river communities’ to take co-responsibility for and care fo their river. The Aller river is a severely degraded 13 kilometre stream in Durban, running through New Germany residential and industrial and Clermont township. Major problems include aging infrastructure, particularly the sewer lines alongside the river, litter and dumping, chemical pollution, and invasive alien plants. These are exacerbated by the effects if climate change, including intensified drought and heavy rainfall events. The ARPP was initiated in 2016 by volunteers under the umbrella of the ‘Take-Back-Our-Rivers’ initiative of the eThekwini Conservancies Forum with the Kloof COnservancy as the implementing agency. The project facilitates multi-actor collaboration to generate practical solutions to problem issues such as the safe disposal of disposable nappies. The project has trained previously unemployed township youth as ‘eco-champs’, who then spearhead behaviour change interventions in the community and local businesses. This includes environmental education through eco-clubs established at 6 local schools. The eco-champs monitor river health, including through regular weekly riverside walks, and report sewer spillages thereby minimising sewage pollution. Alien Invasive plant clearing by eco-champs and a partner organisation is followed by planting endemic indigenous plants, restoring biodiversity.”
Award from the Department of Environmental Affairs
In September 2019 the Aller River Pilot Project was awarded a “Good Green Deeds Award” at the Waste Khoro Conference in Kimberley by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.