Network of drains vital as groundwater floods Lacey Road homes

"Residents are forced to evacuate and abandon their homes."

IT NEVER rains but pours for the community at the Lacey Road informal settlement. Recent rains have added another challenge to their daily struggle as water pours down the slope the settlement is built on and floods the homes in its path, forcing residents to evacuate and abandon their homes.

According to Ward 31 Councillor Chris Pappas, the land the community has built their structures on is a wetland, which adds to the problem as the water rises from underground and mixes with the water flowing down the slope.

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“We are appealing to the community for help by donating bags of cement. We are planning to build drains that would be able to channel the water into drains. Fortunately for us the source of the water is higher up and at certain intersections, so if we put concrete at those spots then we will be able to stop the flow into people’s homes,” Pappas said.

“When it rains it gets very bad with people battling water coming from under the ground and the surface water that flows from the top of the slope down. Our biggest concern is also that the water mixes with the sewage and then goes straight into our rivers and oceans. It is also a health hazard for the community. We are asking the people out there to help us create a better environment for everybody’ sake,” added Pappas.

According to a study conducted by the National Biodiversity Assessment in 2001, it was found that the country’s wetlands are the most threatened ecosystem in the country. KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Gauteng were expected to have no natural vegetation outside of protected areas by 2050. Based on the study, the growth of agriculture, mining and urban sprawl were the main causes of the loss of natural vegetation in the three provinces.

One of the affected settlement residents, Nonhlanhla Shangase said her home had been filled with water for the past five months. “It does not matter how many times we try to empty the house it just comes back. Sometimes you go to bed having no water and when you wake up the entire house is just filled with water, whether its raining or not. Our furniture has been destroyed and we are now squatting with a friend, at least there the water is not that bad. It’s just the life that we are living, it’s very tough.”

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Trevor Balzer from the Department of Water and Sanitation said the loss of ecological infrastructure, such as wetlands, significantly affects the availability of water – especially when clusters of wetlands lose their ability to release water in times of drought. “The loss of wetlands also negatively affects the ability of water systems to offset flow in times of flooding,” he said.



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