The article appeared on Grocott’s Online and was written by Sue Maclennan
Sue Maclennan @SusanMaclennan2
Members of the St Andrew’s College and Diocesan School for Girls environment team filled 51 bags totalling more than 400 kilograms of rubbish during their first clean-up for the year at Grey Dam outside Grahamstown last weekend.
Eighteen pupils led by the schools’ environment prefects Ash Velloza and Thomas Wait, clambered down the bank on the east side of the dam, waded into the dam’s outlet and patrolled the perimeter, picking up bottles, plastic bags, take-away packaging, cold-drink cans and much more – including disposable nappies – during a two-hour blitz on Friday 22 January.
St Andrew’s College has chosen Grey Dam as their ‘adopt-a-spot’ site. While the pupils have undertaken previous clean-ups at the site, and even installed drums for rubbish, they wanted to put themselves on the map in the town’s forthcoming big clean-up drive from 1-6 February.
Because Grahamstown’s grime has become too big for any one organisation to handle, local businesses and institutions, including Makana Municipality, put their heads together last month to come up with a plan to restore some pride to our streets and parks.
Everyone agreed that it starts with us – those who live and work or learn in Grahamstown, and the idea is to ‘adopt a spot’.
Over the past month, participants and members of the public have been identifying areas they’d like to see cleaner, or smarter.
It could be where you work, where you live or where you go to school.
Or it could be a place you pass every day and wish weren’t such a mess.
From Monday 1 February to Saturday 6 February the “adopters” will be going all-out to spruce up their spot.
Hardware store Pennypinchers (46 Bathurst Street) have agreed to provide a 10% discount to those purchasing materials expressly for the clean-up.
They will also make available two trucks (8-ton and 5-ton) to assist with removing litter.
The idea is that, when the Rhodes students arrive in town with their parents for Orientation Week the next weekend, instead of shabby, run-down streets, they’ll get a sense of the pride Grahamstown’s citizens take in their town.
Staff members Jacques Pienaar (St Andrew’s) and Clinton York (DSG) worked shoulder to shoulder with the pupils at Friday’s clean-up, as did Kowie Catchment Campaign chairperson Tim Bull. Kwanele Mbangi from Makana Municipality’s Parks and Gardens department was there to see what his department could do to to support the pupils’ efforts.
“The aim is to come here every Friday afternoon,” said Pienaar, who emphasised that this was not just a once-off clean-up, but a long-term commitment to the area – and Grahamstown.
“There will be frustrations,” Pienaar said. “For example, the bins we installed here were stolen. And, of course, when we come back here next week, people will have thrown litter around again.”
But this was part of the learning experience.
“They’re not just picking up the rubbish,” Pienaar said. “They’re documenting what they find so we get a picture of what it is people are throwing away, what is ending up in the dam.
“We also need to understand what it is users want from a facility like this – what it is they enjoy about the spot – so the pupils also talk to people they meet here.”
The timing of the St Andrew’s/ DSG clean-up at Grey Dam last Friday also had historical significance.
Last weekend, Grahamstown finally experienced relief after a month of water outages and unreliable supply thanks to a power failure at Howieson’s Poort pump station and and the Waainek water treatment works.
Grey Dam, which was officially opened on 8 April 1931, was built to address a severe water crisis in Grahamstown.
In a fascinating and informative document called “Grahamstown’s Water Supply: a brief history from 1812 to 2008”, Lorraine Mullins explains that a serious drought in 1858-1859 made the town authorities in Grahamstown realise that they urgently needed to plan for a proper water supply.
Up till then, they’d relied on a small wooden trough running across the stream that runs through what is now the Makana Botanical Gardens.
“From where the beautiful Drostdy Arch now stands, stone canals led the water down High Street, from which each household drew its share according to a timetable. The storage tank next to the Drostdy Arch, installed in 1818 and restored in 1979, permitted an extension to the system,” Mullins writes.
The drought in the late 1850s was a wake-up call.
“Some households received no water at all for a month, although they had to pay for it,” Mullins writes. “And the poor were reduced to begging.”
The Chief Justice even declared that, should the Eastern Province and Western Province separate, Uitenhage rather than Grahamstown should be the capital, on account of its more viable water supply, he adds.
You can read the full document here: bit.ly/GrocWater1
The Institute for Water Research is adding their input to the St Andrew’s/ DSG initiative. On Saturday 30 January their contribution to the Creative City clean-up will be to wade into the dam and trawl for bottles and other objects littering the dam floor.
Their clean-up day is part of the Institute’s 25th anniversary celebrations, which begin with an open day at the Steve Biko building, Rhodes University, on Wednesday 27 January.
Meanwhile, there’s still time to put yourself or your organisation on the map in the Creative City clean-up.
Email the Creative City project’s Carolyn Stevenson-Milln at email@example.com.
Additional source: Grahamstown’s Water Supply: a brief history from 1812 to 2008
R. Lorraine G. Mullins Prepared for the ‘Kowie Catchment Campaign’c/o Albany Museum, Grahamstown
www.kowiecatchmentcampaign.org.za (Annals of the Eastern Cape Museums 7: 1−64, 2011)