Why destroy river growth

Sue Gow, Rosebank

I live at Rosedale flats bordering the Rondebosch Sports Club fields on the other side and overlooking the canalised Liesbeek River.

About three years ago, when I first moved in, I noticed two workers sweeping the rocks in the middle of the river to the sides against the canal walls.

This went on for about two weeks in this section of the canal. I wondered what on earth they were doing that for.

However, gradually what happened was that the earth collected between the rocks and eventually plants and reeds and grasses grew there and it became a natural river landscape with bird life paddling about and the croaks of little frogs at night. Life returned. It was wonderful to look down on this.

I just assumed that this was an initiative perhaps of the Friends of the Liesbeek to return the river to as natural a state as possible. It was a really pleasing little scene.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, along came a bulldozer and scraped every shred of earth and plants and rocks and carted it away. So now we are back to a bare cement canal.

Was this a council instruction? Was there a contact with other related organisations? Is this clearance due to the possibility of flooding problems? There has been no evidence of that in the rains over the last few years.

We have had some pretty heavy rains and there was no problem.

I would be pleased if someone could give me an explanation of this.

Xanthea Limberg Mayco member for water and waste, responds:

It was necessary to remove the silt and rocks, which had been placed in the centre of the river to prevent flooding as part of the City’s winter preparedness programme. This section of the Liesbeek Canal has not had any silt removal for some time and during the large storm events, was flowing at near capacity.

Accumulated silt also allows for vegetation growth, which further progressively decreases the capacity and impedes the flow of the river. This maintenance exercise was undertaken in accordance with an approved maintenance management plan.

City officials met with UCT’s Professor Kevin Winter, who is also a member of the Friends of the Liesbeek River, and indicated that the City would allow them to undertake some form of habitat restoration work from Alma Road onwards.

Lastly, it is advised that no work be undertaken in any river, without due consultation and permission from the relevant authorities who are responsible for water resource management. Nonetheless the City applauds the active citizenry of the Friends of the Liesbeek and looks forward to collaborative efforts as we move ahead.

Sabelo Memani, project manager of Friends of the Liesbeek, comments:

We are aware of the bulldozing in the highlighted area, and we understand that it was part of the City’s winter preparedness programme to prevent flooding in the area.

This action, although undertaken in accordance with an approved maintenance management, took place without consultation nor collaboration.

We cannot fault the City, as we have an understanding that some parts of the canal will be put aside to maintain some variation in flow and ecological functioning in the canalised sections so that they function as more than merely large stormwater drains.

We are working on a collaborative maintenance plan.

Further, we had met with the City officials after witnessing the effect of the City’s programme and from this meeting it was indicated that some form of habitat restoration would be allowed in the lower reach reaches.

This City’s goodwill gesture offers us a chance to draft a grand plan that will best benefit the City, the local community and the Friends of Liesbeek.

I, along with Kevin Winter an experienced ecologist and UCT lecturer and the UCT landscape design students, will be working on an improved urban green corridor plan in the coming months.

It will be submitted to the relevant City manager.

We hope this will initiate discussions and hopefully possibilities to enter into some form of a formal agreement and long-term collaborative relationship.

The overarching goal will be to create an exemplary space attracting both human and animal visitors.