City to spend more than R20m on vlei rehab

The underlying causes of the pollution in Rietvlei and other city vleis need to be resolved, says water activist Caroline Marx.

The City plans to spend more than R20 million over the next three years on cleaning up vleis, but water activist Caroline Marx says it will need to follow through to tackle the underlying reasons for their pollution.

Ms Marx, Greater Table View Action Forum’s head of environment, was reacting to the council’s decision to give the spatial planning and environment directorate an operational budget of almost R1.3 billion and a capital budget of R217 million for 2022/2023, and an additional R650 million for projects in 2023/2024 and 2024/2025.

A special council meeting took place on Tuesday May 31, for the 2022/2023 and 2024/25 budgets and the new integrated development plan for 2022 to 2027.

Eddie Andrews, the mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said the budget showed the City was determined to protect natural resources while improving coastline infrastructure and citywide service delivery.

The budget sets aside R21.5 million to rehabilitate vleis and wetlands; R88 million for improvements at Table View, Milnerton and Muizenberg beachfronts, Fisherman’s Lane and the Strandfontein boardwalk, and Monwabisi and Seaforth beaches; R69 million for projects to improve the quality of life for poor communities; R18.2 million for “green jobs” and the clearing of invasive plants; and R7.25 million to make it easier to submit online development applications and building plans.

Touching on the thorny issue of rapid development, Mr Andrews said: “No city can function without the appropriate and efficient regulation of the development and land-use sector.”

He said the City would check that developments complied with zoning laws but stressed that it was important to help applicants cut through red tape.

The City would prioritise maintenance and improvements at popular beaches, Mr Andrews said.

“The protection of infrastructure along the coast is also becoming more critical with the impact of climate change and subsequent unpredictable weather.”

Referring to Cape Town being voted third-best city in the world by Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Andrews said some of the projects would boost Cape Town’s image as a respected destination.

Ms Marx, who is a member of the mayor’s advisory committee on water issues, said: “The budget allocated to address the underlying causes (and to remedy) local vleis is very encouraging. However, while the plans are good, these plans still need to be delivered on.”

Cleaning the vleis should only start when the underlying causes of pollution – including poorly treated or untreated sewage due to collapsing infrastructure and a mushrooming population – had been resolved, she said.

“At the most recent committee meeting, the topic of temporary ‘package sewage treatment plants’ on-site at new developments was discussed and many concerns were raised that still need answers,” Ms Marx said.

Some of those concerns had to do with the environmental impact of the plants and who would be responsible for monitoring them, she said.