What was once deserted bush covered with illegally dumped dirt in Wattville is now an environmental centre named after freedom struggle icon OR Tambo.
A lot has changed since the establishment of the City of Ekurhuleni in 2000. There has been a variety of infrastructural developments as well as community development projects. One such structural development is the multi-faceted, environmentally friendly OR Tambo precinct established in 2013. The building is constructed using recycled green material, using solar energy for power supply and relying on harvested rainwater for water supply.
The precinct has since become a popular schools educational site visit destination as it helps learners with natural science studies. Upon visiting the centre learners are exposed to the wetlands, medicinal plants, birdlife, a dam, rainwater harvesting and how the solar panels operate.
Nokulunga Mhlongo (37) is a Natural Science Grade 7 teacher at Ekukhanyeni Primary School, a local school in Wattville. She said she grew up in Wattville and during her school days they used to take long study trips to Johannesburg. Now that she is a teacher herself, things have changed and they are made easier.
“The subject I teach requires my learners to interact with nature, so that they can see what we are talking about. So I usually set a day in a month for out-door learning activities and we walk to the OR Tambo precinct to explore the environmental centre. My learners enjoy it and even go there on their own for homework and research purpose,” Mhlongo said.
Mhlongo continues to say that since the establishment of the precinct Wattville has been placed on the tourist map, as they usually see tourists driving around the township to visit the centre.
“This space was used for dumping; we played here and it was not a beautiful site as it is now. The centre has given our township a landmark, but most of all it has given the members of this community a sense of pride,” Mhlongo added.
Emmanuel Maphorogo, the City’s head of parks pleads with the community not to cut the medicinal plants found at the precinct as they serve an educational purpose to learners and researchers. He also urged residents not to throw garbage on the wetlands as it could impact negatively on the ecosystem.