The UCT community is invited to participate in this year's Peninsula Paddle through the city's waterways on 8 June, to mark World Environment Day on 5 June.
The paddle will highlight the state of the city's rivers, canals and vleis as well as the contrasting social and environmental conditions found along these vital arteries, says Dr Kevin Winter of the Department of Environmental & Geographical Science.
Extreme adventurer and conservationist Braam Malherbe will join the flotilla to raise awareness of the importance of cleaner, safer waterways.
Now in its fifth year, the Peninsula Paddle is organised by civil society activists and supported by private companies. Winter is one of the Peninsula Paddle's founders and its current leader.
The initiative also reflects the UCT's Urban Water Management research group's social responsibility vision. The group was recently awarded a five-year contract from the Water Research Commission to undertake further research in developing water-sensitive South African cities.
Many of the city's waterways are clogged with solid waste and covered by submerged and floating weeds. This was the case when the first Peninsula Paddle took place in 2010 when the group took more than 11 hours to complete the journey.
"We live in a divided city but the stark reality is that we are all connected to each other through the waterways," says Winter, who suggests that the waterways could be used to transform these sometime dangerous spaces into safe and healthy places, while also bridging divisions.
"One obvious opportunity is to start by improving sections of the waterways that can bring people together, for example Princess Vlei, Sybrand Park, and parts of the Black River.
"The concept is simple: makes space for rivers, draw citizen's attention to the opportunities offered by the excitement of water bodies and encourage nature to return to urban life."
One example is the return of flamingos to the Black River in 2012, once one of the most polluted rivers in Cape Town. Another example is the active citizen involvement and sustained efforts of the Princess Vlei Forum, which has persuaded city officials not to allow a shopping mall to be built near the vlei.
"The vision is to use the Peninsula Paddle as a model than can be rolled out to other cities where municipalities are struggling to contain pollution flowing into their urban waterways," explains Winter.
To register and for more information visit www.peninsulapaddle.wordpress.com
Story by staff reporter. Image courtesy of Dr Kevin Winter.
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