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Bioswale project means smoother stormwater management in informal settlements

In informal settlements that lack proper stormwater drainage, sudden downpours of rain can become a severe flooding hazard for residents. Enter Ms Liezl Craig, a lecturer at Unisa’s Department of Environmental Sciences, who is working on a bioswale project at the Diepsloot informal settlement located on the north-western outskirts of Johannesburg.

W095 site swale under community maintenance.

W113 swale flourishing three months after implementation.

Bioswale is a tool used for stormwater management as an alternative to conventional stormwater infrastructure, which runs on expensive capital costs. Bioswale can possibly assist in flood mitigation, downstream water quality improvement and the creation of jobs in impoverished areas.

This research project brings together the community and several municipal departments to collaborate on planning, implementing and monitoring the initiative, which involves testing three different biofiltration models:

  • The first model will be a basic bioswale system which is only aimed at managing stormwater and improving water quality. 
  • The second bioswale model will incorporate food-producing trees planted in the system in an effort to address food security and to enhance household income. 
  • The third bioswale model will include mushrooms to test whether mycofiltration can reduce pathogens and heavy metals in the runoff, which is a common occurrence in these contexts.

Community members will be involved in the analysis of the problem and in planning on how to carry out the intervention. It will include components of environmental education and solid waste awareness.

Swale levelled and ready to be planted.

One of the W113 site swales just after planting.

Funding:

The project has received seed funding from Unisa through its Academic Qualification Support Programme (AQIP) and the Innovation Support Programme (ISP), the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the BMW Seed Programme through the Unisa Foundation for the construction and maintenance of the intervention.

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