Reclaim Camissa – the place of sweet waters


Reclaim Camissa proposes a stewardship for the Table Valley’s water resource to ensure that people are able to enjoy the right to safe and sufficient water and that this water source remains in good ecological health.

So says Caron von Zeil, project leader for Reclaim Camissa, one of the projects under the Cape Town Partnership’s Sustainable Cape Town project.

Caron’s vision is to ensure that by 2020, the people of Cape Town and those who visit, will be enabled to gather around the common heritage of Camissa, the very waters that defined the location of the City of Cape Town, reflecting the public past and embracing a new civic infrastructure – this time inspired by a deliberate recognition and respect for the social/cultural and ecological significance of this water.

“Reclaim Camissa will have put into place the infrastructure to connect people to this vital resource, with beautiful parks; pedestrian walkways; and urban public places by celebrating the waters that link mountain to sea, past to future, and people to the environment,” says Caron.

Caron believes that the project will ensure that water will once again flow through the City providing a safe pedestrian structure for the city and linking a series of green and urban open public spaces. “Public awareness will be raised through enhancing the city with these placemaking elements (way finders) of the cultural landscape. In the renewal and maintenance of this system, employment will be created and the usage of the resource as a public asset will contribute to a sense of community. This will organically give rise to other developments (for example mixed-use and higher density living areas) on the edges of these public landscapes, together with increased property values along the commercial edges,” she says.

As part of the Sustainable Cape Town programme, Caron will also identify various social capital projects that can be explored and set up with other CIDs (city improvement districts) in the greater Cape Town area.

Where it all started

In 2006, Caron, together with Janet Manca and Colleen Stolzman formed the Oranjezicht Heritage Society to save the old Oranjezicht Farmstead (Homestead Park). This park is a vital clue in the Reclaim Camissa project as it was one of the original farms of the earliest settlement providing sustenance to locals and passing ships – and the single most important water source, in the form of the Stadtsfontein.

Much of central Cape Town’s water and cultural history originates with the spring on the once largest farm of the Table Valley which was lead to Wagenaar’s dam at the old shoreline (now embedded in the Golden Acre Shopping Mall), where it was delivered to the ships that called. It was the waters from this spring that affected the first environmental law of this nation:
Placcaat 12 of 1655: “Niet boven de stroom van de spruitjie daer de schepen haer water halen te wassen en deselve troubel te maken”.

According to Caron, these days, this spring spews in excess of 2.4 million litres – almost enough for every man, woman and child of Cape Town’s more than three million population to have a litre of water a day – of potentially potable water, directly into the stormwater system.

Another interesting fact, according to Caron’s research, is that the water from Platteklip and the 13 artesian springs in the City Bowl, sustained since settlement, provided the water for Cape Town’s population and trading ships, until it was scrapped from the asset resource register in the late 1990s. There were more people living in the City Bowl up until the 1970s, than do today, and this resource sustained them.

After various presentations, fundraising initiatives and many papers, the Cape Town Partnership recognised the project as one of its “Five big ideas” in its Central City Development Strategy.

In February this year, Caron also met with Alderman Clive Justice, the Mayoral Committee member responsible for the Water and Utilities portfolio. This meeting resulted in the formation of a Public Benefit Organisation in the form of a non-profit trust to collaborate with the City of Cape Town, as a key partnership, to achieve the goals of the project.

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