Mpendulo Mbulawa is instrumental in getting rid of illegal dumping areas in uMhlathuze local municipality. He is the leader of the Green Chapter Foundation, a community-based organisation based at Ngwelezane township near Empangeni and Richards Bay. The foundation must be recognised for its consistency in keeping the City of uMhlathuze at large clean and green through weekly clean-up campaigns called Adopt a spot. Mpendulo has spearheaded the campaign of mobilising community members to participate in cleaning up their own spaces to make them green and safer. The foundation has cleaned up many streams and rivers in uMhlathuze’s Ward 28 and it has helped restore the ecosystem in wetland areas. The organisation has rehabilitated more than five illegal dumping areas in the ward. They have converted them into recreational areas for the little ones, community gardens where people can grow their own food and into economic hubs for local vendors. Through its well coordinated waste management strategy, they have helped prevent crime through environmental design. The foundation is leading community recycling projects, which are sustainable because people are able to make money by selling recyclable items. It has also been instrumental in promoting recycling in other parts of rural KwaZulu-Natal such as the Okhahlamba local municipality in the uThukela district. uMfolozi local municipality is another beneficiary of the foundation’s intervention in keeping the municipality clean through recycling. At the same time the organisation is saving the environment from pollution such as plastic waste. Mpendulo brings together youthful and vibrant people who are dedicated to keeping our environment safe and clean.
What’s been your/the organisation’s greatest achievement in your field?
To turn an illegal dumping area that was problematic to the neighbours. It was situated alongside a stream which resulted in the ecosystem being compromised. We were able to turn that illegal dumping area into a community garden and we restored the ecosystem. Through clearing up illegal dumping, we contributed to minimising criminal activities taking place in that area.
Please provide specific examples of how your/your organisation’s practices and work have a positive effect on the environment
Our work has a positive effect on the environment because our focus is rehabilitating vacant bushy spaces which are often turned into illegal dumping sites, which then destroy the ecosystem at that area.
Our work in restoring the ecosystem is done at a grassroots level through going back to basics with a campaign called Adopt A Spot. This enables us to mobilise the community members to participate in cleaning up their own spaces.
Not only does our work and practices have a positive effect on the environment, it also contributes to addressing socio-economic problems and food security.
Through our recycling programme community members learn about recycling and collect recyclables during the clean-up campaigns.
Moreover, through our effort to rehabilitate the environment and beautify the spaces we have been able to address the issue of crime prevention through environmental design.
What are some of the biggest environmental challenges faced by South Africans today?
- Climate Change
- Extreme weather patterns
Our theme this year is Celebrating Environment Heroes. What do you believe could be the repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent if we do not tackle problems exacerbated by climate change, encompassing issues like drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air and water?
The repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent will result in many negative impacts on our environment and livelihoods.
We are currently experiencing unwelcomed events of floods, severe thunderstorms and landslides. People living in areas such as Durban and in most parts of KwaZulu-Natal have been victims of back-to-back abnormal heavy rains.
We are also experiencing high temperatures during summer which has a negative impact on agriculture, thus affecting food security.
The wetland ecosystem is slowly being destroyed by sewer leakages.
People living in places like Richards Bay are the victims of constant air pollution from various industries in the area. Many cases of lung infections are the results of excessive coal dust.