Adopting the theme: “Pioneering Water Solutions in Urbanising Areas,” the congress focused on workable approaches for the global water sector in low and middle income countries.
German NGO, the Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA), received the IWA Development Solutions Award for its ‘innovations and contributions to technology and community facilitation that transform service delivery to low income urban settlements.’ The PRG’s other significant collaborator, eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS), also walked away with two awards for its innovations in, and contributions to, the development of sustainable sanitation.
The PRG enjoys a long and highly beneficial relationship with both BORDA and EWS and plays a key role in the success of their water and sanitation projects in the Durban area.
In 2006, the PRG and EWS established a relationship with BORDA, which provides basic needs services in developing countries in Asia and Africa. The collaboration centres on the sanitation needs of the eThekwini municipality and the ongoing research interests in the anaerobic baffled reactor (ABR) system - a sewage treatment system that requires no electricity and little maintenance. Head of the PRG, Professor Chris Buckley, was appointed R&D Co-ordinator for the BORDA partner network.
The Newlands-Mashu Permaculture Training Centre, located in Newlands East in Durban, is the site of a demonstration Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System (DEWATS) jointly designed, constructed and financed by BORDA and EWS. This system treats sewage from more than 80 households and is being monitored by the PRG. According to Buckley, BORDA and EWS ‘have provided more than R3.5 million in funding for research facilities for the Pollution Research Group at the Newlands-Mashu Permaculture Centre.’
The DEWATS project, which focuses on treating and recovering wastewater for use in urban agriculture and community initiatives, has provided the perfect opportunity for multidisciplinary collaboration. The PRG and the eThekwini Municipality are currently working closely with other UKZN scientists located on the Pietermaritzburg campus.
Professor Jeff Hughes; PhD candidate, Ms Irene Bame of Soil Science; Dr Alfred Odindo of Crop Science; and Microbiology’s Professor Stefan Schmidt, are all involved in agricultural trials at the Newlands site.
The coupling of wastewater treatment processes and horticulture is a unique and sustainable way of managing an important urban waste stream for the benefit of society and the environment. ‘A lot of what we do is about making communities resilient against climate change by facilitating productive use of water,’ said Buckley.
The Newlands-Mashu Permaculture Centre was one of several green initiatives in Durban that was showcased at the COP17 Congress. During the event the site was visited by high-ranking international politicians and officials.
At the end of the year, the PRG was a contributing partner to the BONN2011 Nexus Conference which attracted 500 key decision-makers from around the world. The conference, at which participation was by invitation, provided the PRG with the opportunity to present its research conducted at the Newlands-Mashu Permaculture Centre and its subsequent roll-out by the eThekwini Municipality.