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'Nog bloed kan vloei in waterstryd'

Written by  Wednesday, 29 January 2014 05:47
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JOHANNESBURG. – Die Federasie vir ’n Volhoubare Omgewing (FVO) het ’n beroep op die Menseregtekommissie (MRK) gedoen om dringend met ’n ondersoek te begin na die knaende watertekorte waarmee gemeenskappe buite Brits en by Pilanesberg in Noordwes al maande lank worstel.

Vier mense het die afgelope weke hul lewe in geweld oor watertekorte in Mothutlung en Damonsville verloor.

Mariette Liefferink, direkteur van die FVO, het gesê dis hoog tyd dat die MRK ingryp omdat mense en platinummyne nou in dié gebied – die Krokodil-Wes/Marico-waterbestuursgebied – om dieselfde waterbronne meeding.

Liefferink het in ’n verklaring gesê mense loop kilometers ver om water te gaan haal omdat hul krane al maande lank droog is, terwyl die platinummyne onverpoos voortgaan om skoon water in hul prosesse te gebruik. Verskeie lodges in die Pilanesberggebied is tans ook sonder water.

Sy het gewaarsku as die huidige stryd oor waterregte in dié gebied nie spoedig besleg word nie, dit tot verdere bloedige konflik gaan lei. Volgens Liefferink het sy die departement van waterwese telkens in die verlede gewaarsku om nie “links en regs” waterlisensies aan die platinummyne in die gebied toe te staan sonder om eers na die behoeftes van die inwoners te kyk nie.

Volgens Liefferink help dit dus nie net om waterinfrastruktuur wat verouder is op te knap om konflik te vermy nie, maar moet daar ook drasties gekyk word na die beskikbaarheid van water.

Intussen het die DA die openbare beskermer, adv. Thuli Madonsela, gister versoek om ’n landwye oudit te doen na die toestand van Suid-Afrika se waterinfrastruktuur, terwyl die VF+ gister ’n klag teen die Mangaung-metro by die Verbruikerskommissie aanhangig gemaak het. Verskeie skole in Mangaung (Bloemfontein) het gister hul deure gesluit omdat hul krane droog was. Groot dele van dié stad sukkel al maande lank met watertoevoer.

News24 en Eyewitness News het berig Edna Molewa, minister van waterwese het gister gesê die probleme met watervoorsiening in gebiede reg oor die land kan “maklik” opgelos word omdat dit aan “nietige kwessies” te wyte is.

Die gemeenskappe buite Brits het Molewa tot Vrydag kans gegee om hul watertoevoer te laat herstel. As dit nie gebeur nie, sal hernude protesaksies begin.

Mava Scott, woordvoerder van die departement van waterwese, het in ’n verklaring gesê “ ’n derde waterpyp” van 600 mm is reeds na die waterbron van die geaffekteerde gebiede in Madibeng geïnstalleer.

Marietjie Gericke berig uit Bloemfontein dat geen einde nog in sig is vir die waternood wat duisende inwoners in die noorde van die stad sedert Vrydag teister nie.

Teen gistermiddag was al agt opgaardamme in die noorde van die stad bykans dolleeg.

Professionele duikers wat deur die Mangaung-metro gehuur is, gaan vanoggend probeer om die verstopte sluise by Mockesdam te probeer oopmaak sodat Maselspoort vinniger water kan kry.

Slegs een waterpomp is by Maselspoort beskikbaar om water te onttrek, maar die pomp is gisteroggend ná 20 minute afgeskakel uit vrees dat dit gaan uitbrand omdat die watervlakke van die Maselspoortdam nog te laag is.

www.dieburger.com

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WATER

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment’s ongoing role in addressing the sewage pollution in the Vaal River

‘People the same as pigs’ in the VaalBy Sheree Bega | 16 Oct 2020 Foul: Pigs root in sludge in Emfuleni municipality. (Photos: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G) Clutching her one-year-old son, Monica Ndakisa jumps onto a brick to avoid the sewage that runs like a dark stain across the passage in her home.  “We’ve lived like this for years,” she says pointing to one of the culprits: her blocked toilet, which causes sewage to pool into nearly every room of her home in Sebokeng hostel in the Vaal. “The smell is too terrible.” It’s worse outside. Her small garden is submerged in a sickly, grey sewage swamp. To stop the human waste from seeping inside, Ndakisa has built a concrete barrier at her front door. But it’s futile. “My five-year-old son was in the hospital for two weeks with severe eczema and they told me it’s because of all this sewage. It makes us cough all the time. It’s so depressing to live like this.” Samson Mokoena, of the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (Veja), shakes his head. “It’s chaos. You can’t allow people to live in such conditions. The government is playing with our people.” Ndakisa’s neighbour, Maphelo Apleni, has used pipes to divert the stream of sewage from his garden. “It never stops,” he says grimly. “We have a municipality [Emfuleni] that doesn’t care about us.” Mziwekaya Mokwana points at a sewage-filled furrow clogged with litter where pigs are feeding. “This is no better life,” he says. “People are the same as pigs here.” Sewage in Vaal River system  Last month, the human settlements, water and sanitation department said it would take at least another three years to minimise and eventually stop the sewage flowing into the Vaal River system. In a recent presentation, it states how “design treatment capacity is at its limit, housing development investments are delayed and there are negative environmental and health impacts”. Ageing infrastructure is to blame for sewage spillages, coupled “with a lack of operation and maintenance investment” as well as theft and vandalism.  It will cost about R2.2-billion “to have a sustainable impact on the Vaal River catchment within Emfuleni local municipality”. The department’s plan aims to safeguard infrastructure; repair the bulk network to eliminate spillages, key and critical pump stations and rising mains; refurbish wastewater treatment works “in an attempt to comply with discharge licence conditions”; and achieve operation and maintenance requirements. But Maureen Stewart, the vice-chairperson of Save the Vaal (Save) is sceptical. She says there is no political will to tackle the crisis. “These problems go back over 12 yearsand reached crisis proportions when the system collapsed in 2018. The result is some 200 million litres of raw or partially treated sewage entering the Vaal River and its tributaries daily.” Stewart warns that it’s an ecological disaster that also affects agriculture and has serious health implications for people living above and below the Vaal Barrage Reservoir, which is 64km long and used to supply Johannesburg with water but is now too polluted to do so.   She says the Emfuleni municipality has been under Gauteng’s administration since mid-2018 and, despite promises, the status quo remains — unbridled sewage pollution of the Vaal River and Emfuleni.  “The Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (Erwat) was appointed to take over in 2019 and were given funding and spent R179-million. Their contribution was to unblock pipes and remove 50 tons of rubbish from the system. This opened the pipes but, as the pump stations and the three wastewater treatment plants remain dysfunctional, there has been no improvement. Raw sewage continues to flow into the Vaal River and into the streets of Emfuleni.”  Monica Ndakisa sweeps overspill from her toilet. There was a “glimmer of hope” when Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, visited the Vaal in January this year, assuring Save that action will be taken and that funds are earmarked in the 2020-2021 budget.  “It seems her enthusiasm has not filtered down to her department,” says Stewart. “After Erwat’s contract was not renewed, the department stated they would undertake the repairs by appointing their own contractors. Tender documents have been languishing on someone’s desk at the department since July.” Sputnik Ratau, spokesperson for the department, says the government has committed resources towards solving the sewage problem in the Vaal.  “Government sent state institutions to assist Emfuleni local municipality (ELM) in this regard; these include SANDF and Erwat. Recently, the department finalised the scope of all that needs to be done to solve the sewage problem. There are 26 work packages that will be advertised in the coming weeks for competent contractors to take part in solving the sewage challenge in the Vaal.”  The department, says Ratau, aims to have a “busy festive season” working with the appointed contractors. “In the 2020/21 financial year, the department has committed R911-million towards solving this challenge. The total investment by the department in 2020/21 financial year is R1.2-billion in the Vaal; this includes the building of additional wastewater treatment capacity and associated pump stations.” Maphelo Apleni installs pipes to drain sewage out of his garden. Before the end of the financial year Module 6 in Sebokeng water care works will be launched, “subject to no community unrest disrupting construction”. The department, Ratau says, has to take all necessary precautions to ensure that section 217 of the constitution is followed as far as procurement is concerned.  “Thus the departmental checks and balances had to be followed to the letter to ensure compliance with procurement processes. This unfortunately caused delays but was necessary.” Within the next month the department aims to advertise for all the contractors “that can assist in this challenge”. Ratau says commitment dates, including start and completion dates, “will be sent not only to Save but all interested stakeholders once the contractors are appointed. The department cannot preempt this before the appointments are made.” He says that R7-billion is required to “solve the pollution challenge in ELM. This needs to be coupled with operations and maintenance, which is a function of ELM at local government level”. Save is once again taking the government to court to enforce legislation to ensure infrastructure is repaired within phased completion dates and that sufficient funds are made available for ongoing maintenance and operation of the system by the municipality, supervised by the high court.   Veja’s Mokoena is glad the department is taking over the Vaal clean-up. “This situation was supposed to be fixed a long time ago. So much money has been squandered at the municipal level.” Rand Water’s delay Eight months. That’s how long it took Rand Water to release public water quality records for the Vaal Barrage system to a team of aquatic specialists investigating the ecological health of the river system.  In January, Aquatic Ecosystems of Africa submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application to Rand Water for access to its water quality analysis data for the Vaal Barrage and downstream since 2015.  Nothing happened, it says, until Tshepang Sebulela, the Paia compliance officer from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) intervened late last month.  New pipelines are being installed in the Vaal. In an email to Rand Water, Sebulela noted how the multiple requests for records by Aquatic Ecosystems and the Federation for a Sustainable Environment have allegedly been ignored, which in terms of Paia are deemed refusals.  “The SAHRC is greatly concerned by a large number of public institutions who provide such important services to the public who refuse to meet their basic legislative obligations,” he wrote. The records landed in the firm’s inbox on 2 October.  Aquatic Systems’ Simone Liefferink says sourcing surface water system data is becoming increasingly difficult. “It’s disturbing the data is not adequately managed, readily accessible to the public and private sectors who pay tax and other water charges for effective catchment management to be implemented.”  Rand Water did not explain the reason behind the delay.  That the information was provided in a PDF format of almost 2 000 pages “frustrates and delays” its interpretation, says Liefferink.  She and her partner, Russell Tate, began their investigation after a major fish kill in the Vaal River in mid-2018. That September they testified at the HRC’s inquiry into the contamination of the Vaal River that high levels of ammonia from the wastewater treatment works was wiping out life in the river system. A snap-shot analysis of the data provided by Rand Water shows high levels of E coli, ammonium and ammonia — key indicators of sewage pollution. Average E coli counts soared from 12 705 colony-forming units per 100ml in 2010 to more than 107 000 in 2018 and 66 923 in 2020.  “The contributing factor is clear — dysfunctional sewage treatment conveyances and treatment plants. More disturbing is the long-standing deterioration of the system that ever increases the loss of biodiversity and other essential ecological functions and human services. Yet this matter is still not treated with extreme urgency,” says Liefferink. HRC’s long-awaited report It’s taken nearly two years for the Human Rights Commission to release its report into the Emfuleni sewage crisis. “Their report has not yet been taken to parliament, nor has it been published. Why?” asks Save’s Stewart. Buang Jones, the Gauteng manager of the HRC, says the provincial report has been finalised.  “It’s with the commissioners now for final adoption and approval. Once it’s been approved, it will be shared with implicated parties and they’ll have 10 days to comment. This is a countrywide issue and the report seeks to address broader challenges when it comes to river pollution and wastewater management,” he says.  Read the original article here.

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