Paddlers promote waterway plight

Paddlers gathered around the Lady of Hope on the Black River near Maitland at last years Peninsula Paddle.

UCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, aimed at raising awareness of the plight of the city’s waterways.

The Peninsula Paddle, which takes place on Sunday September 27, will be slightly different this year, as lockdown restrictions mean fewer people can participate.

This year fewer paddlers will be responsible for paddling each of the four legs of the traditional journey, which starts at Zandvlei in the early hours of the morning. Each paddler will be equipped with cameras and recording equipment. The aim is to make a short documentary on the state of the waterways from Muizenberg to Milnerton. Along the route the paddlers will take water samples to test for bacteria, nutrients and heavy metals and compare these results with water samples from previous years.

Dr Kevin Winter, representing Future Water Institute, said the Peninsula Paddle began with four people who wanted to challenge themselves to see if it was possible to traverse the Cape Peninsula from Muizenberg to Woodstock beaches in kayaks.

“A route via canals, rivers and lakes was easy to identify on the map, but the possibility of paddling or pulling kayaks had never been tested before. More importantly, the intention was always to challenge the City of Cape Town and its citizens about the state of the city’s waterways, which have become nothing more than convenient conduits for disposing solid waste, plastics, material and much more, all of which could potentially find its way into canals, lakes and eventually the sea.”

Dr Winter said at the heart of the litter problem were two major failures: a systemic failure in which large parts of the city have inadequate waste services, and human behaviour where little thought was given to the consequences of litter and other waste.

The event will be held in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).

CTEET CEO, Dr Anthony Roberts said they embarked on a partnership with the City to mitigate negative behaviours and impacts on the degraded urban rivers.

“In March we officially launched the River Ambassadors programme, which seeks to upskill and employ youth from residential areas in close proximity to these river systems. At a time when unemployment is at an all-time high, particularly for youth, it is essential to be creative in how we can use the Green Economy to bolster employment for a semi-skilled workforce. For people to see nature as the solution has multiple benefits in building that relationship with the natural world.”