27 September 2010

From the rivers to the oceans, moving from awareness into action!

Lesley Rochat

Lesley Rochat is a marine conservationist, filmmaker, photographer and writer. She is also the founder of AfriOceans Conservation Alliance, with whom the Aquarium has worked closely in our shark conservation work. This article was originally posted on her Shark Warrior blog.

Last week was International Coastal and River Cleanup Week, and we at AfriOceans, in partnership with the City of Cape Town, went full steam ahead in doing our bit to make a difference. Working with the community is an important part of AfriOceans’ work and, as a result of the support from Councillor Frank Martins, we were able to reach over 600 learners.

AfriOceans’ Head of Education Terry Corr and the AfriOceans’ Education Specialist Verona Smith presented the YES International Coastal and River Cleanup Week in the suburb of Delft, on the outskirts of Cape Town, from 13 to 17 September. They visited four participating primary schools – Wesbank No 1, Silversands Primary, Rainbow and Hoofweg – and conducted interactive workshops for the first three days, during which the knowledge base of the learners was assessed and strengthened. “From your drain to our oceans” was the theme, which focused on the importance of rivers, and what can be done to take action to improve river health and, ultimately, ocean health.

From the group of 660 Grade 6 learners, 120 were selected to take part in a water quality assessment of the Kuils River, which flows through the Delft community. Utilising water testing kits, small nets and rubber gloves, the river warriors set about checking the water quality of a 500-metre stretch of the river.

By looking at the insect and bug biodiversity in the river, they were able to make basic assessments of the state of the river’s health. To the children’s shock and horror, they only found bloodworms, which indicated that the river was in a serious state, with high levels of pollution.

While I ran around with both video and stills cameras capturing the special moments, Terry then challenged the learners to see which group could pick up the most litter. After the whistle blew and within 40 minutes, over 50 bags of rotting litter was recovered from the river edges and banks.

Proud of their achievements, the group posed for photographs with city officials, teachers and educators in front of the AfriOceans Warriors banner, amid a pile of yellow cleanup bags, and shouted loudly: “We are the AfriOceans River Warriors!” The following day the same team of learners did a beach cleanup, reinforcing the theme of the event: everything dumped in the rivers and from our drains lands up in the oceans.

A special thanks to my dedicated and passionate team, Verona Smith and Terry Corr, who made me proud, to all the wonderful learners and teachers, and especially to Councillor Martins and the City of Cape Town. Let’s do it again soon: There’s loads of litter waiting to be collected by eager AfriOceans Warriors!

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