Reviving Oupa Fats – The journey begins

WITH an eco wonder equivalent to a rain forest on our door-step, Lenasians have decided to reclaim this important eco-logical resource, Lenz Vlei better known as Oupa Fats.

This comes weeks after a Facebook post by Yusuf Alli calling for the revival of Oupa Fats and an overwhelming interest from local fishermen.

“Somehow I feel like it’s a discarded jewel,” the post read.

About 80 comments were garnered on the post and about 90 likes, which saw Lenasian’s take to the challenge of reviving Oupa Fats. In the forefront of the revival is the community members, local fishe4rmen and an initiative which has always been behind Oupa Fats, Lenz Going Green (LGG), as well as community members. The Rising Sun spoke to Yoonus Mitha, an Ecopreneur and Wetlands Co-Ordinator at Lenz Going Green, whose desire is to see the wetland revived.

Mitha praised the power of social media which finally saw community members get involved in salvaging ‘the forgotten jewel’ and preventing it becoming a ‘wasteland’.

“A social media post a few weeks ago has changed the fate of Oupa Fats,” an elated Mitha said.

The long road to the revival is already underway as community members held a meeting followed by a tree planting ceremony. City Parks has also started cutting the grass and cleaning up.

“Although this will be a long road, we will make Oupa Fats what it should be. Soon the community will be able to enjoy this precious land and not fear it,” Mitha said.

There are many challenges to overcome such as illegal dumping, soil theft, illegal net fishing, crime as well as the main challenge of the ownership of the land.

“This land belongs to the National Urban Housing. There is no maintenance budget drawn up for it. In actual sense it should belong to Joburg City Parks which would see to the maintenance of the place as well as other things,” Mitha said.

According to Mitha the ownership has been a stumbling block in the development of the wetland since 1994.

The matter was also taken up to the office of the Mayor some six years ago. To date nothing has been done to address the issue.

In order to address some of the issues, Mitha said that a couple of measures would be put in place, the scraping and cleaning of the road that leads to the dam being a priority.

“We approached the JRA and they have agreed to scrape and flatten the road,” Mitha said.

Next on the cards would be the security factor to eliminate all criminal elements on the land.

“By installing security manned boom gates at all entrances we would have more control of who comes into the wetland,” Mitha said.

This would also eliminate all illegal dumping of rubbish as well as building rubble. Illegal soil miners would be deterred and illegal net fishing would be a thing of the past. Mitha said that some of these elements are due to lack of knowledge about the benefits the entire South Western Communities receive from the wetland.

“For example this place acts as a flood buster, which means that in Lenasia and surrounding areas during rainy seasons water gets saturated by the ground and through underground tunnels makes its way to the wetland, in its purest form. All harmful nitrates have been trapped in soil. Hence some of the sand at the land is black (Peat soil),” Mitha said.

Reporter Rebecca Mogalagadi had the pleasure of being ‘chauffeured’ around the magnificent piece of land by both Mitha and Shoquat Khan. Along the route one could not help but notice the deteriorating state of the once ‘gem’ of Lenasia. Mini dams were formed at places where illegal sand mining is eminent. Building rubble formed in mountainous heaps is scattered all across this eco wonder which is devided into 16 erfs. Trees which once formed one of the SA bird watchers sites had been toppled over. Old women farming had formed one of the positives at the site.

The view of the dam as it stood many years ago could attest to Muriel Moonsamy’s statements that the place used to be one of the best spots to take children to. With the help of community members, that past experience, could be a reality for future generations.

“Let’s stand together and make this work’ was not just a statement loosely thrown around the Facebook post, but is something that can be managed.

Fishing trips and family picnics to Lenasia’s own backyard could soon be a reality.

A meeting will be held at the wetland on Saturday, October 21 at the Heathcock entrance.

Community members who would like to join in the revival of the wetland can contact Mitha on 082 797 5181 or email him on [email protected]

Rebecca Mogalagadi

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