A case study of transdisciplinarity and biomimicry: The restoration of water systems using eco-machines within the informal Berg River community

Wolfaardt, Gabriel (2017-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Berg River catchment, which originates in the Drakenstein Mountains, has significant agricultural and economic relevance. Greywater and stormwater drainage from informal settlements such as Langrug near Franschhoek into the catchment is often the result of insufficient infrastructure, especially to service shack dwellings. This leads to ecosystem degradation, with far-reaching negative implications, including human health risks, and contamination of agricultural produce, which have caused tensions among the various inhabitants of the catchment and thus have driven the need for sustainable and economically viable solutions. The Genius of SPACE (GoS) project is an attempt to address the life-world problem of contamination of the Berg River due to untreated greywater entering the system from the informal settlement of Langrug. Invariably, the design of such intervention requires involvement of various disciplines ranging from civil engineering to ecology. However, there is ample evidence that water management and sanitation in these settings present complex challenges that cannot be resolved purely from a technical perspective and therefore an attempt was made by applying a transdisciplinary (TD) approach to actively include, from the initial stages, the community for the at-source treatment of the greywater, as opposed to planning towards piping the greywater to a treatment plant before entering the Berg River. An important component of GoS’s initial plan was the installation of Eco-Machines, which essentially consist of a series of tanks that resemble constructed wetlands / mimic natural wetlands through which the water flows; each subsequent tank having a different biota and improved water quality. The TD approach was thus applied in an effort to ensure inclusion of the community as active participants in project design without their involvement becoming the primary focus of the project, but rather a means to achieve the overall goal of contributing to the creation of an environment conducive to human dignity and health. Presented here is a report, in the form of two journal articles, on the progress made in this on-going project, the need to adapt and modify, lessons learned and reflection on future initiatives.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Bergrivier, met sy oorsprong in die Drakenstein Berge is van beide landbou en ekonomiese belang. Onvoldoende infra-struktuur, veral om informele nedersettings te bedien, lei dikwels tot hoë vlakke van grys- en stormwater afloop vanuit informele nedersettings soos Langrug naby Franschhoek wat tot ernstige besoedeling van dié opvangsgebied lei. Dit hou nadelige gevolge in vir ekosisteem gesondheid met ver-reikende gevolge wat ook ‘n bedreiging is vir mense-gesondheid en kontaminasie van landbou produkte. Laasgenoemde is dikwels die oorspong van spanning tussen die inwoners van die opvangsgebied en noodsaak dus volhoubare en ekonomies lewensvatbare ingryping. Die “Genius of SPACE (GoS; Systems for Peoples Access to a Clean Environment) projek is ‘n daadwerklike poging om oplossings te vind vir die problem wat onstaan het a.g.v. die onbehandelde gryswater wat in die Bergrivier invloei vanaf die Langrug informele nedersetting. Die ontwerp van sodanige intervensie vereis uiteraard die betrokkenheid en insette van verskeie dissiplines vanaf siviele ingeneurswese tot ekologie. Daar is egter oortuigende voorbeelde dat water bestuur en sanitasie in sulke ostandighede komplekse vraagstukke skep wat moeilik opgelos kan word vanuit ‘n suiwer tegniese benadering, en daarom was ‘n poging aangewend d.m.v. die volg van ‘n trans-dissiplinêre (TD) benadering om gemeenskaps-betrokkenheid van die begin af te verseker vir die behandeling van gryswater by die bron, in teenstelling met die afvoer daarvan met pype tot by ‘n konvensionele aanleg vir behandeling voor storting in die Bergrivier. Die aanvanklike plan van GoS was om sg. Eko-masjiene te installeer, wat vergelyk kan word met kunsmatige vleilande, of ‘n namaak van natuurlike vleilande d.m.v. ‘n reeks tenks waardeer die water vloei; met verskillende biota in elke opeenvolgende tenk soos wat water gehalte verbeter. Die TD benadering het gepoog om aktiewe deelname van die gemeenskap te bewerkstellig, maar terselfdertyd moet dit nie die primêre fokus te word nie. Die deelname moes meehelp tot pogings gemik op die bevordering van ‘n omgewing waar menswaardigheid en gesondheid bevorder word. Hier word verslag gedoen op die vordering wat gemaak is tot hede, met verwysing na behoefte vir aanpassing enverandering wat opgemerk is, lesse wat geleer is, asook oorweging van moontlike toekomstige inisiatiewe.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/101120
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