Action 24 SGF EMG

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[av_heading heading=’Parliamentary lobbying and advocacy for environmental sustainability’ tag=’h3′ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#669933′ admin_preview_bg=”][/av_heading]

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South Africa is currently in the grip of the worst drought in decades and it is clear that poor water management systems have worsened the impact, particularly on marginalized communities and important ecosystems. Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency and severity of droughts such as this, and to put strain on existing systems of water storage, for example through increased evaporation from dams and soil. Reduced availability of water is the primary means through which people in sub-Saharan Africa will experience climate change.

This is now recognized in government policy and there is a climate change strategy within the South African water sector. Despite South Africa’s commitments to participatory democracy, and very progressive legislation for decentralized water resource management, in practice the available spaces for meaningful participation are shrinking. When there are forums for engagement, community representatives are often at an enormous disadvantage, because meetings are conducted in English, in highly technical language, dominated by the powerful voices of a privileged few, and disconnected from the realities and experiences of the affected communities.

There is also a significant gendered impact of water scarcity. In general, women carry the greatest burden in terms of domestic responsibilities, and in terms of securing water for household needs, such as cooking, washing, laundry, caring for children and the elderly, caring for sick relatives, etc. At the same time, women are under-represented in formal decision making spaces, where the majority of local political representatives are male. Decisions about how people use natural resources are thus made by the powerful few for their own benefit, while negative impacts are felt largely by the poor and marginalized. These power imbalances are bad for our society and bad for the environment.

Two key platforms for democratic participation and devolutionary water governance in South Africa are parliamentary civic consultation processes and Catchment Management Forums (CMFs). However parliamentary civic participation processes are often fraught with obtuse blockages that prevent and inhibit proper and informed participation in our legally mandated consultative processes. Poor and marginalized communities are often excluded on the basis of low levels of literacy and unfamiliarity with the concepts of the legislation, draft legislation not being available or presented in their home languages and a lack of transport or resources to attend consultative processes. This results in these consultative processes being rendered useless and a waste of resources.

Concerning CMFs, a primary aim of these localized forums is to provide spaces for communities to engage meaningfully in issues affecting water catchments, with other stakeholders such as government and businesses. At its most functional it can be a democratic mechanism that insures localized stewardship of water sources. EMG has been actively working with the Kuils River Catchment Forum (KCF), through our participation in the Western Cape Water Caucus (WCWC) for numerous years. The WCWC is the provincial arm of the South African Water Caucus (SAWC is a broad based collective of NGO’s, CBOs, Activists and Academics engaged in issues concerning the water/climate change nexus). There are approximately 60 active members of WCWC, from six communities around Cape Town. The majority of these active members are women. Members of the WCWC range in age from 20 to 70+, with the majority under the age of 40. The majority of members are from working class communities and are unemployed, but work on a voluntary basis for local civil society organisations. Many members are growing food on small pieces of land, and volunteer their time to clearing plastic and other waste from rivers and wetlands, and raising awareness in their communities about water rights and protection.

The Kuils River catchment is one of the most highly polluted of our water systems. The sources of pollution are the local citizens because of lack of proper waste management services, Industry and the City of Cape Town’s waste water treatment plant located in Bellville. The catchment also influences the Eerste-Kuils River estuary and thus plays a vital role in the greater geographical ecosystem. There are many vulnerable and marginalized communities who interact with the river system through cohabitation with natural wetlands and the vast majority of these interactions are not informed by the vital role these wetlands play in the greater ecosystem and thus result in wetlands which are heavily polluted and ecologically dysfunctional.

As recently reported (https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-12-05-sewage-flowing-into-kuils-river-creates-a-health-hazard-for-all-of-cape-town/) the Kuils River is extremely polluted and primary containments include raw sewerage and industrial chemicals. In addition, industries along the river are heavy emitters of carbon gases, with a direct effect on the health of the river and the communities who live along side it. There is a direct correlation between the health of the river, its role in the greater geographical ecosystem because of the Eerste-Kuils River estuary, and the health of the ocean because the estuary plays a ‘cleaning role’ as the water from the river enters the ocean. The aforementioned report asserts that contaminants found in the interlinked ocean include EU-banned herbicides, atrazine and simazine. Pollutants in rivers and ocean ultimately undermine their mitigation roles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also reduce the availability of safe water for human consumption.

Objectives

EMG works to build responses to climate change in the water sector that are just, human-scale, ecologically sensitive, empowering and effective. The responses are both to build resilience (adaptation) and to reduce water’s contribution to global warming (mitigation). As such we seek the following specific objectives through this particular project:

  1. Capacitate and assist members of the Western Cape Water Caucus (WCWC) to engage the Western Cape Legislature on issues pertaining to the water/climate change nexus, with a specific focus on the pollution and contamination of the Kuils River Catchment and Eerste-Kuils River estuary.
  2. Increased and enhanced citizen monitoring of and participation in the budgetary oversight processes of the Standing Committees on Environmental Affairs and Development Planning as well as Water and Sanitation of the Western Cape Legislature.
  3. Assist members of the WCWC to engage the KCF on issues pertaining to the water/climate change nexus, with a specific focus on the pollution and contamination caused by the City of Cape Town (CoCT) and Industry.
  4. Ensuring adherence of CoCT and industry to applicable laws that oversee environmental governance through citizen monitoring in the Kuils River Catchment and Eerste-Kuils River estuary.

Activities (March 2019 – February 2020)

  • Two (2) workshops and two (2) interactive parliamentary visits will be conducted with a cohort of WCWC members to enhance their understanding and knowledge of parliamentary budgetary oversight and law making processes.
  • Two (2) workshops will be conducted with a cohort of WCWC members to capacitate them to present oral and written parliamentary submissions.
  • Drafting and presentation of parliamentary submissions and comments by WCWC in correlation to the budgetary cycle to lobby and advocate for fiscal allocations for decarbonisation and the protection and rehabilitation of polluted and contaminated water sources
  • WCWC Advocacy for and attendance and participation in parliamentary committee site visits to affected areas in the Kuils River Catchment and Eerste-Kuils River estuary.
  • Two (2) workshops will be conducted with a cohort of WCWC members to enhance their understanding and knowledge of the legal architecture of environmental governance.
  • Active citizen monitoring of adherence to laws on environmental governance.
  • Develop two (2) case studies in booklet and short video form, that provide evidence of local action with regards to water and climate change that can be used to engage KCF, CoCT and the Standing Committees on Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and Water and Sanitation of the Western Cape Parliament.
  • WCWC members will act as interlocutor between the Western Cape Provincial Parliament and KCF on state of the Kuils River Catchment.

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Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) is an independent, non-profit organisation established in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1991, dedicated to building an active and empowered citizenry to encourage environmental practices that lead to a more human relationship with each other and the natural environment.
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Disclaimer: This web page was created with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the African Climate Reality Project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
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