Of floods and water

Jenny Patchett, Somerset West

Thank you for publishing the letter from the City of Cape Town Mayoral committee member, Brett Herron.

Since I wrote to Bolander originally, I have obtained a copy of the City’s Lourens River Flood Alleviation Measures (Phase 1H): Consent Request, plus concept plans, proposed plant, concept plan and would like the following points to be raised with the mayoral committee member.

1. I see from his letter that these plans were approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) in 2001, after all the approval processes had been done.

Why, then, has it taken 16 years to be put into place?

If it had been done within a few years of approval, we would never have had the floods in November 2013.

Please don’t misunderstand me – having read the plans; in 2001 they were probably a good idea and would have been very gratefully received, because no one believed then that we would run out of water.

2. Now we are in the middle of the most severe drought the Western Cape has ever known, why on earth are we worried about a 50-year flood alleviation project.

We are, as usual, closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The chances of another 50-year flood are remote at best, especially so soon after 2013.

3. I have now been watching the work done on the other side of the river, and there are a few points that are puzzling me.

a.  When the digger dug up the whole river bank right up to the fence of Lourens River Estate complex, all that soil was carted away, leaving a big void and no river bank to plant anything, let alone indigenous trees – maybe a few grasses and shrubs.

I cannot see that we will ever have back our beautiful, peaceful riverbank, with trees full of bird-life, squirrels etc.

There may be room for grasses, but it is a steep bank and I doubt trees can grow on that steep slope.

b. Now the digger is back, putting soil back again, from where two to three weeks ago, it was all dug up and carted away – what was wrong with the river bank soil, if indigenous plants are going to be planted – surely it would have been ideal? 

c. I presume the multi-stage terraces and gabion mattresses will be put on the lower bank and the vegetation, grasses and small shrubs further up the bank.

d. I note from Mr Herron’s letter that “our” section of the river would appear not to be having any trees planted on  the riverbank, due to the steepness of the slope, which is exactly what I had worked out myself from watching the work going on.

So, in effect, that side of the river will have been ruined and the wildlife pushed out, once again.

4. On a completely different subject, which probably isn’t in Mr Herron’s jurisdiction, I would also like to ask the City the following questions that are bothering a great many older residents, who are doing their best to conserve as much water as possible:

a. At least 10 years ago, the City knew this drought was coming.

Surely R37 million could have been better spent finding other sources of water to contract the drought when it arrived.

Instead of which the City is trying to scare us into using even less water than we are already down to,  thanks to their inefficiency and lack of fore-thought.

We just get told, that if the water runs out, we’ll all have to queue with our buckets for drinking water.

With all the elderly people in Somerset West, how does the City think they will do that?

Most of them may be able to carry a bucket empty, but would be totally unable to do anything with it, once full.

b. What plans are the City making to accommodate the elderly, who are feeling very insecure with all these alarming stories from the municipality, whom they should be able to trust?

All the press are telling us are these scare-mongering stories.

Surely the City must have some other alternatives, such as desalination, underground water or water from the rivers, that they are spending our rates money on to provide us with water if the dams run dry.

In the 21st century, in a city like Cape Town, I can’t believe their only plan is for the residents to go to trucks to collect water.

Is that what they will tell all the tourists as they arrive at Cape Town International Airport, or will they be allowed to use as much water as they like, while the rate-paying residents are made to suffer?

This letter was sent to the City of Cape Town for comment. – Ed

See page 5 for more letters.