A City of Cape Town official and a geology student gave an update of the Source-to-Sea project at a sub-council meeting at the Alphen Centre last month.
Stephen Granger, a manager in the City’s environmental planning department, said two rivers in the Constantia Valley – Diep River and Prinskasteel/Keysers River – had been chosen for the R30m pilot river management project, which, if successful, could be rolled out for other rivers across the metropole.
Laura Jonnard, a geology student from Paris working as an unpaid intern for the City, surveyed communities along the rivers earlier this year.
“Her hard work on the survey has provided much insight into the project,” said Mr Granger.
The vision for the Source-to-Sea started as a dream, born many years ago by a passionate group of local people who wanted to improve the natural habitat that surrounded them.
In 2004, John Green, James Forsyth and Mandy Noffke discussed the possibility of creating a riverine corridor connecting the mountain to the sea linking Prinsesskasteel (Elephant’s Eye) to Princess Vlei and Zandvlei.
Gavin Lawson, of Plumstead and Zandvlei Trust, has hailed the project as a “unique model” that is “people focused”, drawing in both rich and poor communities.
At the presentation, Ms Jonnard said she had done a survey from April to August this year to understand people’s perceptions of the Diep River.
She said the section of river under review cut across high- and low-income residents, from Constantia and Plumstead to Marina da Gama.
“Some sections are very attractive, others neglected and seen as negative spaces. This is where the Source-to-Sea project will have a significant impact,” she said.
Ms Jonnard said many recommendations were made by participants from each area.
“Most relate to the lack of facilities – benches, playground areas, trails and pathways, bridges – along the trails and the river banks, which could help to have more interaction with the river,” she said.
“Facilitating this interaction with the Diep River and people would help to create a sense of ownership around this specific space and maybe improve the respect towards the river,” said Ms Jonnard.
Other suggestions are to provide more signage and name each open space along the greenbelts and river banks.
“It would help people feel closer to the space and have a stronger relationship with it,” she said.
She said many people had requested environmental education signage, especially on the Alphen Trail, and a bird hide to attract more birds.
“Others would like the accessibility to the river to be facilitated and less dangerous for children. Many people are afraid that their children could fall into the river and get hurt by broken bottles in the water where this is very polluted,” said Ms Jonnard.
In lower sections people asked for the river to be fenced to prevent children from going there and playing in the water, and criminals from hiding there at night.
Mr Granger said that based on the survey outcomes and general perceptions by Ms Jonnard’s fieldwork, the most important areas to focus on would be the lower sections.
The focus on the middle section would be on pollution, vagrancy and criminality and broken infrastructures.
“The upper section, the Alphen Trail, is already a nice and well used place. However, the Diep River trail would be the one to focus on, for safety issues, overgrowth vegetation (maintenance) and facilities,” said Mr Granger.
He said that all along the river there should be more facilities for people to relax and enjoy themselves, more bins to avoid pollution and more maintenance.