Cape Town could be transformed into the Venice of Africa, says a not-for-profit organisation that is seeking to revive the city’s canal system.
Reclaim Camissa has developed blueprints for a programme that seeks to provide a sustainable water management strategy for Cape Town and redevelop urban spaces for recreation. Camissa – the place of sweet waters – was how the indigenous Khoisan people referred to what has become Cape Town.
Caron von Zeil, programme director, said: “The programme provides the opportunity to secure our resources – specifically water – and reclaim public space, harness energy and regenerate the urban life of the city.”
There are about 6.5km of underground canals that carry stormwater from Tablemountain and water from the 15 springs in the area to the Atlantic. Only one of the springs is in use. According to the City of Cape Town, the city will no longer be water-secure by 2013. If, however, the canal system and springs were harnessed and developed, the city would have enough water for its needs, according to Von Zeil. When the canals and springs were used, they apparently served a population of 111 000 people at their peak.
The city’s canal system was created by Dutch colonisers as a fire and irrigation system in the mid- to late 1600s. Some were covered by the British after the bubonic plague, and the remaining canals were filled and covered by 1903.
The programme proposes creating a pedestrian spine that would run from the Table Mountain nature reserve to Duncan Dock, passing through Van Riebeeck Park, Homestead Park, the Molteno reservoir, De Waal Park and the Company Gardens.
The spine would have seven interlocking precincts or development areas.
The first two precincts encompass the dockside and new water’s edge, commonly known as the old foreshore. The programme proposes creating a navigable Heerengracht with canal connections from the V&A Waterfront to the Cape Town International Convention Centre and station.
The third precinct would include the old waterways, which could be used as navigable subterranean twin canals for water taxis, below Adderley street up to the Company’s Garden.
The fourth precinct would be in the cultural heart of the spine and include the Company’s Garden, and Parliament. It would provide irrigation for city landscaping, water features and a fountain.
The fifth precinct would include a water sustainability park that would renew and recycle run-off water from the mountain and springs in the central business district.
The sixth and seventh precincts would provide opportunities for the catchment of storm and spring water.
There are also plans to create a washerwomen’s museum commemorating the Indonesian slave women who used to wash clothes on Table Mountain. Water reservoirs would be reinstated in all these precincts, as well as water fountains for public use.
Reclaim Camissa was set up to provide stewardship and raise funding to develop and implement the programme. The organisation was founded in March and the feasibility study is nearly complete. The next phase is to entail creating a business plan and securing seed funding.