University of Cape Town

14 March 2019

Read more about Moiz Paracha's experiences on the Sustainable Water Management in Africa Course at the University of Cape Town.

cape town
Moiz Paracha, Chemical Engineering

The short-term study abroad course that I undertook at the University of Cape Town was sustainable water management and this lasted two weeks. This course was held within the engineering department and the lectures that were given were a mixture of technical and non-technical based ones such as the health diseases of water, the background to waste treatment processes and ones on the circular economy which describes the social and economic implications of the drought in Cape Town in a more national context. 

Apart from lectures there was a two day field trip where we took a tour of a dam and waste water treatment plant on the 1st day and we visited the Water Hub on the 2nd day. The Water Hub was a project to not only remove waste from the water but also to increase biodiversity through planting various types of plants and attracting more species of birds and insects around the river. We collected water samples from the river which were to then be analysed. Based on this data we had to write a short report on how to improve the Water Hub to increase its biodiversity. Towards the end of the week we gave a group presentation on a similar water challenge based on what we learnt over the two weeks.

This was honestly an amazing experience, not just on an educational level but also on a personal one. As a chemical engineer waste water treatment is a very interesting process but we can only learn so much about it from the UK where the problem of waste isn’t so drastic. However in Cape Town there was a worrying drought (water levels in dams at 23%) with waste also affecting many areas especially in informal settlements. Gaining a practical approach as well as analysing a much more relevant case really gives an insight into the real world challenges with water. However it was very refreshing to see how passionate everyone was, including the Master/PHD students, to help solve the problem. The willingness and desire they have to genuinely make a change to the country is really what caught my attention. The experience in general is very eye opening. The type of new people you can meet and the calmer pace of life is a great cultural experience.

cape town

As someone who has lived most of their life in London and never really gone into Africa the beauty of the country is phenomenal. Everywhere you turned you saw beautiful mountains. With Cape Town being on the mountainside and by sea, there are so many adventure activities to do. I personally loved hiking up to the top of Table Mountain and to Cape Point (the most south western point of Africa). From Penguin Colonies to roaming through the Hout Bay there is so much to do. To think that I was lucky enough to go with my course mates and explore the best parts of the country all within 2 weeks is really extraordinary. During the evening there are plenty of places to eat and with food being quite cheap there it really is very easy to dig in. I personally loved trying their seafood mainly crab and their traditional Kingklip. It’s quite hard to think of a downside to the whole experience however there is quite a lot of uphill walking and stairs to climb but that’s something that’s easy to get used to. Also while living in student accommodation it did get quite cold during the night and since South Africa is very warm all year round there is no heating system in place within buildings so it is advised to bring some sweaters or jumpers to keep warm during their winter months where it gets to about 7°C or 8°C in the night and 15°C during the day.

Overall if you’re even vaguely thinking about applying go do it because it’s something you won’t regret. The course in itself is very eye opening and brings together so many different disciplines together. Within my course group there were students from engineering, biology, law, Anthropology and even film! Every one of us learnt so much from the experience. Apart from the course the social aspect of nights out, hiking and witnessing some of the best views you will see is definitely worth it.