Cleaning up the lifeblood of the city
Rowers are getting out of their boats and into the water in a bid to clean up a river in Christchurch, New Zealand, badly affected by the city’s devastating earthquake six years ago. As part of World Water Day, World Rowing is highlighting one of New Zealand’s most rowed-on waterways.
The Avon River, which runs through the city, is one of the country’s most polluted waterways and rowers are some of the few people who can still use it for recreation – swimming is not an option in large parts of it.
Environmental groups started a project called The Mother of All Clean Ups last year which encouraged people from around the city to spend a day pulling rubbish from the Avon. It was so successful, they’re doing it again on May 13, the eve of New Zealand’s Mother’s Day – hence the title.
Large parts of the river were badly affected by the major quake that struck in February 2011. It became more congested and shallower in parts. Burst sewer pipes leaked effluent.
The Avon had been badly polluted for years before that and volunteers at last year’s event pulled out 20 tonnes of rubbish including mattresses, car parts and televisions.
The Union Rowing Club is one of several clubs and schools who turned out to do their bit - and will be back again this year. The club captain, Dorle Pauli, says the Avon is the lifeblood of rowing in the city and they felt it was essential they took part.
“We were aware it would not fix all of the Avon’s problems but we wanted to stand up and be counted,” she says. “We wanted to make a public gesture that we care about that environment and to give some time and energy into helping.”
March 22 is World Water Day, which aims to draw attention to the world’s water crisis that sees 1.1 billion people living without a safe supply close to home, a number that is predicted to rise.
Many have to spend hours gathering water while others are forced to live with the consequences of drinking from a contaminated water supply.
The cause an important one for the World Rowing Federation, FISA, which has a partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to promote the sustainable use of water and to encourage the return to clean rivers, lakes and sea.
One of its major projects is the Kafue River and Rowing Centre near Lusaka, Zambia. Working with the WWF and the Institute for Water Education, FISA is helping with the establishment of the centre which it hopes will be used by students, scientists and sportspeople alike.
Of course, FISA has an interest in clean waterways for its rowers, but the Federation also wants to encourage sustainable water use and management on a much wider scale.