A wetland feature was unveiled at the Jewish National Fund Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre last month in May.
An entire ecosystem will flourish around it over the next few years which will include plants, insects and tilapia – indigenous freshwater fish.
“It’s a special day to be opening this wetland,” said Tina de Waal, who manages the gardens in the areas around the centre. “It will grow really well and develop into something amazing.”
The wetland was developed as both an education tool for the 10 000 schoolchildren from more than 70 primary and high schools who visit the centre every year and a natural filter that is integrated into the water drainage flow in the area. Wetlands trap toxins in the water flowing through them, cleaning the water, trap floodwater and replenished ground water and support aquatic life and wildlife.
Water is pumped into the system by four solar panels on the roof. It then runs into other surrounding wetlands throughout the community.
The new fixture was officially opened by Miss Earth South Africa Tamerin Jardine, manager at the centre Christa van Schalkwyk and landscaper Piet Uys.
“We’re an educational and environmental centre. So for us the whole aim of this wetland is to better our environmental but also [use it] as an education resource for the kids that come to the centre,” said De Waal.
Miss Earth South Africa Tamerin Jardine, speaking to an audience of Mamelodi high school students and members of the Jewish National Fund, which developed the centre in 2005, encouraged all to make a difference in the environment and find their power do so. “That one action by picking up your litter changes your world … We have the power to make our future a greener life,” she said.
Benjamin Shulman, deputy director of local projects at JNF South Africa, said the JNF had been active in community projects such as the Nelson Mandela Park. Walter Sisulu, the namesake of the centre, was also deeply involved and had established a relationship with the Jewish community in South Africa. His mother, Albertina Sisulu, known simply as Ma Sisulu, opened the centre with Helen Suzman and Shaka Sisulu eight years ago.
“There’s a Jewish community in South African … that wanted to contribute to what was around them. We’ve worked for many years in South Africa [on] how can we take this knowledge and give it over in a way that’s useful. All religions basically say all things belong to God. If it belongs to God, we as humans don’t have a right to destroy. So from a religious view you can encourage people to be more environmentally friendly.”