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Thursday Dec 06, 2012

Another setback for Bruma Lake project

It is another knock for the much-maligned Bruma Lake, with the next phase in its rehabilitation dropped due to insufficient funding.

A view of Bruma Lake.

The year started optimistically for the lake, which over the years has grown increasingly polluted by sewage and litter flowing from Joburg's city centre. An artificial wetland was built to help the natural filtration of the water flowing into the lake, while litter baskets were installed further upstream.

But according to the minutes of a mayoral committee meeting in August, "the Bruma Lake project had to be cancelled due to insufficient budget".

The council says the project has not been cancelled but was put on hold until funds could be obtained.

So far it has secured only R7.5 million for the next financial year, and another R9m for the year after.

Even combined, this is not enough to meet the estimated project cost of R36m.

This second phase of the project would see Bruma evolve from a lake to a river: extending the surrounding banks by filling in the lake and narrowing out the body of water. The idea is to improve the flow and natural aeration of the water, which, until earlier this year, had been causing a stink for a long time.

"Bruma Lake has a very small base flow," explained wetlands expert Paul Fairall, who has long been fighting to see the lake's problems resolved.

"There's not enough current to manage a lake of that size, so it becomes a litter trap. A riverlike quality would be better for it."

In January, the council installed three "SolarBees" - floating, solar-powered machines - to improve circulation of the water and rid it of the stench.

"It was terrible before," said Bruma shopping centre manager Dimitri Kouloumbis.

"But the SolarBees really are helping, though the summer rains have been bringing a lot of rubbish overflowing into the lake."

He said businesses welcomed the proposed changes to the area.

"We want to get Bruma Lake back to the reputation it used to have, as the place to be."

But Fairall said none of the short-term fixes would make the problems go away.

"It's patching things up with plasters instead of implementing a thorough maintenance plan. Drastic ills need drastic measures."

The current delay is just the latest roadblock in the rehabilitation of Bruma Lake, which has seen numerous short-term, stop-gap measures over the years, but no lasting solution. These included:

  • 2004

    A R9m litter trap was constructed to decrease the flow of garbage into the lake.

  • 2007

    The council began dosing the lake with chemicals to clean the water.

  • 2009

    Fairall launched two floating wetlands on the lake to filter out waste. According to reports, a task team was established to deal with Bruma Lake, while Joburg Water undertook to dredge the lake before the 2010 World Cup. It was also considering installing a R1.5m precipitation plant. The pricey litter trap built five years earlier broke down in a storm.

  • 2010

    The council again began dosing the lake. It promised to begin repairs on the broken trap "soon". Again, it said it was investigating the possibility of the precipitation plant. It announced another shortterm plan: wire meshing to trap litter. After Fairall contributed R20 000 towards a clean-up day, the council hired a company to clean the lake using a micro-organic system and "bokashi balls" to eat away at the collected sludge. A longterm rehabilitation plan was proposed, at a cost of R41.2m.

  • 2011

    Mayor Parks Tau identified the rehabilitation of Bruma Lake as a capital budget project for 2011/2012. With the lake in its worst condition yet, the council spent R5m on specialist studies ahead of the rehabilitation. Another R4.2m was allocated to the project. - Additional reporting by Anna Cox

    The Star


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