A LANDMARK eco-development on the outskirts of Nelson Mandela Bay pioneered by Dr Chris Mulder, as well as its self-sustaining and Eskom-free showcase home House Rhino, has drawn interest and praise from academics at a leading university in the US.
Mulder, returned this past weekend from a trip to his alma mater, Texas Aandamp;M University – one of the largest universities in the US – after being invited to give a guest lecture to students and academics titled “De-urbanisation: creating sustainable rural new towns”.
Mulder, who is the credited with transforming Knysna’s Thesen Island from an industrial wasteland into an eco- friendly tourism destination and Blue Flag marina, is also behind the Bay’s Crossways Farm Village development near Van Stadens, a pioneering project involving building “rural new towns” which are partially or totally self-sustaining and energy independent.
During his lecture last week, Mulder highlighted House Rhino – the off-grid showcase development at Crossways which has been built by Bay-based water, food and energy solutions company Rhino Group.
“It was the fact that it was off the grid and on Crossways, where we have large off-grid houses mixed in with medium sized and smaller homes, all interwoven together in a safe and walkable community environment,” Mulder said.
House Rhino, Rhino Group’s showcase of off-grid solutions, generates its own energy from solar panels; creates gas for cooking from a biodigester processing waste from the house; and harvests rainwater which is then heated by means of a water heat-pump powered by the solar energy.
“House Rhino continues to attract significant local and international attention,” said Rhino Group managing director Brian van Niekerk. “We have even housed German post-graduate students who were doing research on its self-sustainability, after their alma mater failed to find anything comparable in Europe for them to study.”
Mulder said his concept of creating “rural new towns” centred on food security, rural development, poverty alleviation and job creation.
“Rural development is a national priority and although de-urbanisation flies in the face of global trends, it is essential in South Africa,” Mulder said.
Speaking of Crossways at the university, Mulder said: “I gave an overview of what Crossways is, how it works and we will be feeding back – and already are – into the community of Thornhill by creating jobs, upskilling the community, and providing contracts .
“I also explained that we, as developers, provide all the infrastructure and thus self-manage the provision of services like sewer, water, electricity, refuse removal, and fibre-optic access for each home.”
Mulder has been named Texas Aandamp;M’s Most Outstanding International Alumnus twice – in 2002 and 2011 – for his community-minded eco-sensitive projects
Source: News 24
Where some nations wrestle and struggle with ecology versus energy demands in form of coal and oil, Africa has to consider something more fundamental: the need for water to survive! It has been said that water is second only to air in importance for life.
We can survive many days or even weeks without food, but we can only survive a few days without water. According to water.org, about 750 million people, that is about one in nine, lack access to clean water.
More than twice that many, about 2.5 billion people, do not have access to a toilet. This grim picture demonstrates the urgent need of having access to clean water. It has been predicted by water.org that population levels will rise by around 2.7 billion, close to a 40% increase, by 2050.
If this happens, extreme pressure will be placed on our precious and already hard-pressed freshwater resources in our surroundings. A report issued in November 2009 by the UN suggests that by 2030, in some developing countries water demand will exceed supply by 50%.
According to the UN, already more than two and a half billion people in the world live in the most abysmal standards of hygiene and sanitation. Helping them would do more than reduce the death toll; it would serve to protect the environment, alleviate poverty and promote development. That is because water underpins so much of the work we do in these areas.
In fact, the need for innovations in water conservation has never been greater. According to the World Water Council, although the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources grew six-times. The increased industrialisation and the added demand for water will have somber consequences on water supply in future.
There should be increased awareness that freshwater resources need protection and sensitize companies, individuals and communities to seek innovative solutions in water conservation.
Rwanda uses less than 2% of its available fresh water resources; there is scope for increased use of the resource in the economic and social transformation. In planned developments in energy, agriculture, infrastructure, industry and domestic supply, indicate that water demand will increase in the next 5 – 10 years.
The high population growth is expected in the developing regions of the world where already clean water is often incredibly hard to come by. The problems associated with water supply are not just about quantity.
A growing number of contaminants such as heavy metals, distillates and micro pollutant are entering our water resources, supplies , making conservation more challenging. Figures on access to water and sanitation in many developing countries vary depending on the source of information . The fact that many rural water systems are not functioning properly makes it even more difficult to estimate effective access to improved water supply.
Water is very essential to survival. Unlike oil, there are no substitutes. But today, fresh water resources are stretched thin. Population growth will make the problem worse. The global economy grows concurrently with its thirst that needs to be quenched.
Most of the health and development challenges faced by the poorest of the world’s population-diseases like malaria or Tuberculosis , rising food prices, environmental degradation-the common denominator often turns out to be water.
International World water day is almost here with us, March 22nd and this year provides an important opportunity to consolidate and build on the previous World Water Days to highlight water’s role in the sustainable development agenda.
Just like the many nations on earth and Rwanda as always joins the rest of the world in marking the importance of this vital resource, there is utmost need to create awareness of its recycling and as its conservation.
The water resources in Rwanda face growing challenges arising from pressures of rapidly changing demographic patterns, the demands of intensified socio-economic development, degradation from unsustainable and inappropriate land use practices; and the uncertainties created by climate change, among others.
Millennium Development Goals has set a target of cutting by half the number of people without access to safe water by 2015. Water Resources Master Plan derived from the Rwanda National Policy for Water Resources Management that was approved by the Cabinet in February 2012 has one of its objectives to provide an equitable allocation framework for water resources recognizing water as a finite resource.
The challenge we face now is how to effectively conserve, manage, and distribute the water we have. National efforts encourage us to explore the local and global trends defining the world’s water crisis.
As it is often argued, whenever there is less land available, and less water to make that land productive, competition for that land can turn violent.
Strangely enough, as Claudia Ringler, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington observes, “On a per capita basis, water availability is not that bad in Africa. In Ethiopia and Somalia, the water is there, but it is not getting to where it needs to be.”
Source: All Africa
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