Sustainability Forum: Highlighting Water Security & Ecosystem Conservation

Water stress is rapidly emerging as a key issue facing industry and investors in South Africa. Lack of water can hamper operations and development in a wide variety of industries including agri- and agri-processing sectors. How we manage our water infrastructure, and respond to the risk of increasing water stress from climate change and population growth, will be a key factor in our successful economic development. Addressing these risks, the Western Cape Government has employed design thinking and a multi-disciplinary approach to shape the Berg River Improvement Plan. This was the focus of Accelerate Cape Town’s Sustainability Forum held on 13 June.

Our first speaker, Dr Joy Leaner for the Western Cape Government spoke about the overarching Berg River Improvement Plan. The Berg River catchment is home, not only to one of the Western Cape’s most picturesque landscapes, but plays an extremely important role in our economy. However, it is under tremendous pressure from man-made activities. The Berg River Improvement Plan is a package of innovative activities touching environmental protection, conservation, water use efficiency and rehabilitation. This ambitious plan was initiated by the Western Cape Government in 2012 and, impressively, identifies both short (under 5 years) and long (5 to 30 years) term interventions.

One of the most innovative ‘sub’ projects under the Berg River umbrella is The Genius of Place. As one of the Western Cape Government’s 110% Green flagship projects, Charline Mouton, Western Cape Government, and Shannon Royden-Turner, In / Formal South answered the question: can biomimicry impact positively on the challenges experienced by the Berg River area, and if so, in what way? The Genius of Place project is researching locally attuned organisms and systems to understand how biomimicry principles might be used to effectively address the challenges of water pollution from stormwater drainage, sewerage and solid waste generated by an informal settlement along the Berg River.

Other speakers at the Sustainability Forum who gave quick overviews of their projects included:

Bregje Wijsenbeek (Dutch consulate): Department of Design is an initiative of the Government of the Netherlands as part of their contribution to World Design Capital Cape Town 2014, running from 8 to 26 July on Vrede Street in Cape Town. The Department of Design’s programme focuses on challenges in water, health, food and urban development; and will open a dialogue between South Africa and the Netherlands. A platform where experts and innovators can share knowledge and experience, it is an incubator for creating sustainable solutions. The Department of Design will host several seminars, workshops, an exhibition and is a perfect place to connect, work and have a cup of coffee.

Kulthoom Razak (Sanlam): Sanlam, in partnership with WWF, launched The Journey of Water campaign with the aim to reconnect people to the real source of our water which is in nature. In particular, Sanlam and WWF want the South African public to recognize that “water doesn’t come from a tap”. Watch the WWF’s Journey of Water.

Nadia Sanetra (Distell): Distell uses significant quantities of water both in their agri business and their production processes. Nadia gave us an insight into the considerable success they have had in both conserving and re-using water. A question was raised: Does the company incentivise employees to have good suggestions to protect the environment? Nadia answered: employees are encouraged and share innovative ideas.

This article was written by Clemence Bigotte.

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