Clean river a human right

Businesses and civil society in Pietermaritzburg are campaigning together in a bid to get Human Rights Commission intervention on pollution of the Dusi River.

Businesses and civil society in Pietermaritzburg are campaigning together in a bid to get Human Rights Commission intervention on pollution of the Dusi River.

Published May 12, 2024


Durban — Fears of a decline in ecotourism in Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas have driven businesses and civil society in the KwaZulu-Natal capital to campaign together in a bid to get the SA Human Rights Commission to intervene in Dusi River pollution.

After numerous reports of waste, including raw sewage, being discharged into the river, the campaigners have questioned the commitment of Msunduzi Municipality. They warn that failure to act quickly will see many businesses linked to river activity closing because of the poor water quality.

The campaign to stop sewage spills, collect solid waste and clean up Pietermaritzburg aimed to get as many signatures as possible to submit to the commission in the hope that the Chapter 9 institution would get the municipality to deal with the problem.

GroundTruth director and environmental activist Dr Mark Henry said he joined the campaign because it is in the interests of those who rely on the river for their livelihoods.

“This is a human rights issue because everyone has a right to a healthy environment. The Dusi is very much part of that environment; that is why we want the Human Rights Commission to act on the matter,” said Henry.

Another NGO, Love PMB, said the initiative was not about attacking Msunduzi Municipality but ensuring a clean and safe City for children and future generations. The NGO’s Wendy Freese said they were concerned about waste often dumped in the river, and it was an opportunity for everyone concerned to swing into action.

“We need to answer the question: what are we leaving for future generations, what kind of legacy do we want to leave? It is important that we do all we can to ensure a clean environment, and the river is an important part of the campaign,” Freese said.

Maritzburg Association of Residents, Ratepayers and Civics spokesperson Anthony Waldhausen said the association was involved because a clean Dusi was in the City’s best interests and affected its financial security.

“The Dusi Canoe Marathon is the City’s drawcard, but owing to the water quality in the river, we have noted a decline in accommodation demand,” said Waldhausen.

Msunduzi deputy mayor Mxolisi Mkhize admitted to some challenges with pollution, but questioned whether this had reached crisis proportions.

“We have had instances where people said our water quality is shoddy, only for the municipality to get Blue Drop status – the highest recognition for water quality,” Mkhize told the Independent on Saturday.

He conceded there was a skills shortfall in the municipality, saying this was why they sought assistance in the form of partnerships with some organisations that work towards clean water.

The campaign is trying to garner 3 000 to 4 000 signatures to submit to the SA Human Rights Commission.

In recent times, the Department of Water and Sanitation has stepped up its efforts in dealing with municipalities that are said to be not properly disposing of sewerage in their water systems.

Independent on Saturday