JOHANNESBURG (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A river filled with sewage, broken TVs, dead dogs and used needles or a clean, bird-luring oasis lined with indigenous plants?
Most people could only see a polluted ribbon of water in Johannesburg’s Jukskei but two pioneering women have set out to restore one of the city’s largest rivers.
Conservationist Romy Stander and artist Hannelie Coetzee want to tackle water pollution using research, green infrastructure and art in a model they hope can be replicated for other rivers across the country.
Working closely with the local community, the duo launched an initiative to remove alien invasive plants in December 2020, with plans underway to build natural water filters to protect the river.
“Water is a reflection of society, and this one is toxic,” said Stander, who co-founded the charity Water for the Future with Coetzee.
Mining, agriculture, urbanisation and pollution are adding to the rapidly decreasing quality of fresh water sources in South Africa, according to local water utility Rand Water.
“But it can recover and the pollution can eventually go away, to a certain degree” said Stander, seated at a table in a nearby coffee shop, surrounded by a pile of creased maps, city plans and a frog book.
In South Africa, satellite imagery from the Norwegian Institute for Nature shows wealthier suburbs are