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Today I joined residents, councillors and City of Cape Town staff in commemorating Arbor Week by planting indigenous trees in a community garden in Philippi which has been transformed from a notorious illegal dumping site into a safe, green, functional community recreation area for all to enjoy.

The Seth Park wetland rehabilitation site in Philippi is a prime example of a new approach the City is taking to clamp down on illegal dumping by upgrading and greening public open spaces in order to build safe, inclusive spaces for our communities.

I was inspired by the transformational work at the Seth Park where the community has been an integral part of the change, with many of the senior citizens leading the way and taking ownership by partnering with the City to uplift this space.

The Seth Park has undergone major rehabilitation work, which is continuing, and the vision of the community for the park stems from this being one of the City’s World Design Capital 2014 ward projects which demonstrated how design can transform life.The park is a wonderful example of co-design in action, where residents are working with the City’s environmental, heritage management and parks teams on ongoing upgrades to manage this park which is partly a wetland.

The transformation of the park from a dumping area into the green space is thanks to a partnership between the community, various City departments and the Edith Stephens Nature Reserve Environmental Education Programme to give effect to the vision that the community had for the park. This multi-year project is a great example of how City departments are working transversally to improve green infrastructure in our communities.

Residents were part of the education and training programme which empowered them with knowledge about landscaping and promoting sustainable environmental management. The local senior citizens’ group also completed a wetland delineation course.

Melvin Poto, a Philippi resident and chairperson from the senior citizens’ committee said: ‘We had workshops where we were taught how to maintain the wetland park and what the best kind of plants and trees are for the park. We also upgraded the footpath and the community is very pleased with the upgrades. We are very happy to be part of this project to make the park look better’.

The work being done in this park is in line with the City’s Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP) to build resilience and enhance partnerships with communities for progress.

Since the upgrades started in the park, illegal dumping is a thing of the past and the park is now a place for children and people of all ages to enjoy.

To mark Arbor Week, we planted 10 indigenous trees and plants including boerboom and milkwood species.

The ward councillor, Nkululeko Mgolombane, has also earmarked funding from his ward allocation to install more play equipment and outdoor gym equipment at the park.

Further upgrades being planned include starting a herb garden and installing mosaic benches in keeping with the original concept that the community provided in the WDC 2014 project concept document.

Our work in greening and uplifting public spaces is carefully balanced, with a specific focus on contributing to water resilience.

To build resilience, we have to strengthen our proactive environmental approach to improve water security and secure our natural assets.

Our parks and environmental management teams are working closely to ensure that we optimise our work in effective land management. The green open spaces and natural areas created more than 2 784 job opportunities as part of the Mayor’s Special Project: Integrated Catchment Management in memory of Kader Asmal through the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme office. This creates green jobs while conserving and upgrading the environment.

The City’s Recreation and Parks Department and the Environmental Management Department are focusing on conserving water while also preserving Cape Town’s natural landscapes. The focus is on planting indigenous plants and removing alien invasive species, which use water and exacerbate water scarcity. The Kader Asmal Project has also focused on clearing invasives in the catchment areas owned by the City (Wemmershoek, Steenbras, Atlantis and Lourens River) as best practice catchment management assists with water provision.

The Seth Park in Philippi and many other City parks have been leading the shift to the New Normal behaviour as a drought region by being water-wise and using treated effluent water systems in order to preserve the City’s natural beauty while also conserving water.

This week City mayoral committee members and councillors also planted water-wise trees in Nantes Park in Athlone, the Scottsdene sports field, and the Langa sports field.

Trees are an important part of environmental management and they give life in more ways than one – not only through producing oxygen, but also by revitalising our community public spaces.

We will continue making progress possible together by working with residents to green our communities, creating integrated spaces, and growing our contribution to protecting the planet for future generations.

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