Making things run smoothly

Water care—preserving life in the environment for the good of development: Joint winner: Coca-Cola South Africa Leak Repair Project

“Our school was in a bad condition before, with pipes leaking, toilets dirty and in a poor condition. Now everything is fixed and repaired,” said the deputy principal at Vumbeni Primary School, Samuel Mdulwazi, after his school received a facelift from Water for Schools.

The project is funded by the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, which is undertaking plumbing repair and water-care education at schools in the Ekurhuleni metropolitan area as part of its South Africa Leak Repair Project.

Vumbeni is one of the schools to have benefited, along with the Ntuthuko and Abram primary schools. At Vumbeni the minimum night flow is now zero, indicating a 100% success rate in the repair of leaking plumbing fixtures.

Water for Schools has enabled schools in disadvantaged communities to improve water use and efficiency, focusing on rural and peri-urban communities. Problems these communities face include unsafe drinking water, frequent leakage of sewerage into water sources, lack of proper water treatment technology, inadequate access to water and high costs related to leakage and waste.

Another project funded by Coca-Cola was the Munsieville Private Property Leak Repair Project in the Mogale City local municipality, which was initiated in November 2005.

Tuli Mkatshwa, community affairs manager at Coca-Cola, says the aim is to help residents to access safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

“Even though the socio-economic conditions in disadvantaged areas have improved somewhat since the country embraced democracy in 1994, water problems still persist for various political, social and economic reasons.

“Most municipalities buy potable water in bulk from regional suppliers and wasted water results in enormous financial losses for municipalities,” Mkatshwa says.

A total of 1 371 households in Munsieville and 4 442 houses in Sharpeville in the Emfuleni Local Municipality area have already benefited from the Leak Repair Project.

The primary measurable objectives of the project are to reduce water wastage through leaks and to lower non-revenue water loss. It also enhances sustainable water management in communities and provides skilled and semi-skilled employment opportunities while improving sanitation.

“The Plumbing Institute and the Construction, Education and Training Authority were both consulted in all decisions relating to training of learner plumbers,” said programme manager Mike Rabe.

The project has also been rolled out in Polokwane, eThekwini and Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape. It has used a multi-sectoral approach, partnering with non-profit organisations, business, environmental and consumer leaders as well as the government and communities.

The Greening the Future judges singled out this Coca-Cola project for the sheer scale of its positive impacts and the reach of its partnerships. They praised its flexibility, innovation and a good training element.

They stressed that the education component of the project was essential if sustainability was to be achieved and urged all partners to ensure its continued success.

Water care—preserving life in the environment for the good of development: Joint winner: Warriors for Water

As a young boy Samson Phakathi used to walk into the mountains with his grandfather to look for herbs. “My grandfather used to tell me a lot about the environment,” he says. “I grew to become passionate and curious about the environment.”

Phakathi is now the coordinator of the Rural Eco Warriors (Rews), role models who tackle environmental concerns in their communities as part of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s conservation leadership group.

Five trained Rews have launched “sustainable living” projects in their communities near Howick, Jozini, Barberspan, Dullstroom and Memel. Over the past three years they have had a significant impact on the environment, particularly the quality of water resources.

They are also helping to change the mindset of their communities by opening their eyes to the importance of rehabilitating and taking care of their wetlands and other water resources.

“People want to make their lives better but are not always sure how to do it,” says the project’s environment education leader Janet Snow. “Many community members are approaching the Rews and sharing their knowledge about the environment, as well as asking what they can do to help.”

Phakathi is based in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and is working on a wetland rehabilitation project with the Mpopomeni community.

“The project initially focused on creating awareness of the importance of wetlands to livelihoods. Now the community is developing a wetland management plan aimed at cleaning up and rehabilitating the wetland and its surrounding areas,” he says.

Wetland areas are critical to the survival of rural people, providing clean drinking water, construction materials and food security during droughts. But almost 50% of South Africa’s wetlands have been destroyed and a number of remaining wetlands are being degraded at a rapid rate.

Rews encourage their communities to identify problems relating to water and to work together to provide solutions. This includes reducing water pollution and realising economic benefits from well-managed water systems.

“The emphasis is on the community to take ownership of their wetlands. This is why we have chosen people from the communities who are passionate about the environment to act as Rews,” says Snow.

Bongisiwe Khosa is the only female Rew. Based at Ingwavuma in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the first problems she tackled was women using the local water source for washing clothes.

“People rely on the river as their source of water, but it was becoming polluted. The washing soap impacted negatively on the water quality, especially for the communities downstream from Ingwavuma,” she said.

Khosa has managed to change the mindset of the women, who now wash clothes in buckets and then empty the buckets on to the land on the side of the river.

The Greening the Future judges praised the practical and creative solutions each Rew introduced for dealing with environmental problems affecting their communities.

“The warriors provide role models in their communities that capture the essence of this water-care award,” the judges say.

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