Khayelitsha resident Sheila Maqwentshu had to clean up sewage in front of her Educare centre, which she had to close due to sewer blockages in the area. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Khayelitsha resident Sheila Maqwentshu had to clean up sewage in front of her Educare centre, which she had to close due to sewer blockages in the area. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

City of Cape Town’s recent sewer spill reduction plan widely welcomed, some are sceptical

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Dec 2, 2021

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Cape Town - The City’s recently launched sewer spill reduction plan to help address 300 sewer blockages and overflows in the city has been widely welcomed.

The plan targets a 50% reduction by 2030, through a combination of strategic upgrades, intensified proactive maintenance, more efficient use of resources, and community education.

Water and Waste Mayco member, Zahid Badroodien, said over the next three years, more than R10 billion of the City’s R29 billion capital expenditure plan will be invested in water and sanitation infrastructure to support sustainable development, of which R1.6 billion is specifically for conveying sewage.

Badroodien said sewer blockage hotspot areas that would benefit include, among others, Khayelitsha, Phoenix/Joe Slovo, Dunoon, Wallacedene, Wesbank, Montrose Park.

He said the department’s 2030 goal was to decrease the number of sewage spills per 100km of pipeline to 50 per month, and increase the length of network replaced to 186km of sewage pipes per year from a baseline of 28km, among other.

Residents in Khayelitsha have been pinning their hopes on having their sewer and drain spills problems being addressed, even Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu came to witness first-hand the extent of the spillages in September.

Khayelitsha Development Forum chairperson Ndithini Tyhido said they were hoping that the municipality would work with community stakeholders in rolling out the plan.

Badroodien said while eliminating sewer overflows was still largely dependent on residents using sewers correctly, the City recognised the serious risks sewer overflows posed to health and the impact they have on the dignity of community. Because of this, it was reprioritising resources from other areas to address that more proactively.

“I visited Khayelitsha with our sanitation teams and saw first-hand the problems our communities live with. Our teams are constantly working to provide short-term relief from blockages and other overflows to ensure clean and healthy environments for our residents,” he said.

Stop CoCT founder Sandra Dickson said educating communities was a good idea, though the lack of solid waste processing plants remained unaddressed by the plan.

“This plan to reduce the sewage blockage problem can only work if the City simultaneously provides more mobile, easily accessible and regularly emptied dumping facilities in communities,” she said.

Epidemiologist and health expert Dr Jo Barnes, a senior lecturer emeritus at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, said it was the first time she had seen the City commit itself to targets, albeit with quite a long time frame – “2030 is close to a decade”.

Barnes said it was a good thing that the City finally admitted to having a problem, but was still blaming the inhabitants to a great degree.

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